The Entrepreneur: Elizabetta Camilleri, Shopological
Fresh from its SalesGossip re-brand, inspiring female entrepreneur Camilleri discusses user growth, benefits of an MBA, and the future of retail
Co-founder: Elizabetta Camilleri
Company: Shopological (formerly SalesGossip)
Description in one line: Connecting you with the brands you love
Previous companies: Have previously worked at Orange, eDreams, and Gartner
12 month target: To have five million customers using the service
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- Shopological puts customers at the centre of the retail maze
- It’s one place curating the inside scoop with news, tips, trends, offers and the occasional surprise or delight from the brands we know you’ll love
- By understanding customers’ shopping preferences and habits, Shopological creates a unique and tailored universe for each person
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Getting two million users to subscribe to SalesGossip was definitely a big highlight for me, which represents 100% year on year growth. It's great to have your business idea validated!
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
I keep an eagle eye on site visitors – particularly the number of total, unique and repeat visitors.
I also look at the amount of registrations, usually around 2,000 a day, and metrics that highlight ongoing trends which brands are users are engaging with for example and how that group changes over time. This way we have great real-time market strength.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
At the moment we are UK based, but abut 10-15% of our users are international. These are customers looking to shop for UK brands or from UK retailers – either indirectly online, or they’re planning their shopping for an upcoming trip to the UK
We plan to expand into other major international shopping centres over the next few years.
Describe your growth funding path:
We have had three funding rounds so far. The first round totalled £250,000 in August 2012, then £600,000 in December 2013, and the last was £1.1m in January 2016.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
Our data insights team has been revolutionary, enabling us to discover exactly what our customers want to see, and thereby tailor content and brands to their tastes. It’s the technology that takes every single customer touch point and turns it into an insight – on customers’ intent, preferences and shopping behaviour.
It’s the core of our business and all developed and designed in house. And we are continuously innovating our methods for the best results.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
We currently have over two million registered users and work with over 1,300 brands from high street to high end. In three years we would like to have 50 million people using Shopological in 50 core shopping cities around the world.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Building a commercial relationship with our first brands and retailers was difficult. As a small start-up, trying to convince multi-national retailers that you are the best marketing channel they can have in the digital space is no easy task!
What was your biggest business mistake?
When we started we made a lot of commonly held assumptions that people would make their shopping decisions based on geography. So we originally created the whole platform around a map. However through our customer interface we realised most people were searching for brands as oppose to navigating the map. Once they found the preferred brand, they would then look for the nearest shop to them. Location was a secondary concern.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
In the UK there's not a whole lot of government red tape actually. When compared to continental Europe it’s bit of a breeze – although everything is a bit up in the air following Brexit.
In my personal opinion a bigger hamper of growth is the difference in time-frames and sense of urgency between a small, agile, fast-growing start-up compared to some big multinational suppliers and partners. Getting a meeting for someone in three months times is an eternity for a start-up like us, but the natural way a larger firm does business.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
We generally all believe things can be done much quicker than they can actually be done. It always takes much longer than you think, not just dealing with big companies, but generally operating in a small environment.
How will your market look in three years?
The retail landscape is fast-paced and constantly changing thanks to technological innovation. Today traditional are becoming obsolete due to the inefficiencies of scattergun marketing, the slow death of print media and the fact that most customers consume the majority of their media through digital devices.
The challenge here is that brands need to find more effective ways to build brand affinity, send shoppers to their online/high street stores and fight for their share of wallet. Innovation in marketing in the digital space, most of which is driven by data insights, will make this a reality.
Consumers have become used to blanket sales which is not sustainable. A mix of targeted marketing, branding, calls to action and promotions initiatives will ensure that brands and retailers continue to attract the right shoppers to their store and become less reliant on sales. Slowly we are moving to much more tailored and personalised content and promotions, and in three years’ time I expect retailers to be interacting much more closely with their customers, with data and customer insights a core part of every business, in the way we are starting to see today.
One big thing that will happen is the boundaries between digital and physical will become transparent. People will jump continuously between a digital interface and a physical purchase, continually bouncing back and forth, looking at promotions and content on computers and phones and visiting in store. Print is on the way out, so brands will need to find a new way to create affinity with their customers beyond that.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
No matter what you might read – no-one gets it right all the time. I’m a keen sailor and I like to think of it like yacht racing. You know exactly where the finish line is but to get there first you need to do a hell of a lot of tacking, and not all tacks will be the right ones.
The trick is to realise your mistake quickly and tack for speed immediately.
Time. Time to do nothing and just relax, having two hours to yourself to go for a run or go to the gym or just sit down and chat with a friend over a coffee (without going through the mental to-do list that can invade your brain). Time is the biggest luxury [for an entrepreneur].
Executive education or learn it on the job?
I studied for an MBA at London Business School where I met my co-founder, Emilio Sanz. We benefitted from their incubator programme, which provided a great network and mentoring. We both acquired the key tools we needed to run this business from building financial plans to marketing strategies but there isn't much that can prepare you for running your own company other than the experience itself.
You cannot learn it. You can learn the tools, but you cannot learn how to do it. After all you have no idea what’s going to hit you. But the education can help provide you with the tools.
You can’t do an MBA and then say now I’m an entrepreneur.
What would make you a better leader?
I could be firmer. You have to be assertive to lead a company.
The Paradox of Choice by Berry Schwartz.
Learn more about Camilleri's business story here.