E-commerce advice from start-up CEOs

Chad Deatherage talks to two company owners about their entrepreneurial e-commerce experiences.

The internet has opened up the global marketplace for start-ups and small businesses. According to a recent study by Shop Direct, 95 per cent of British people now buy goods via internet retailers. As well as the increase of consumers buying online, the popularity of mobile devices has resulted in mobile sales overtaking desktop sales. Findings in the IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Report reveal 36 per cent of UK online sales are now completed on a smartphone or tablet device.

This trend towards online purchasing makes this the prime time for entrepreneurs to start new e-commerce ventures online. If you’re looking to start an e-commerce business but are not sure where to start we have spoken to CEOs from successful e-commerce start-ups who have shared their experiences of setting up and growing their businesses with us.

Here, we talk to Sam Middleton, founder and CEO of online male styling platform The Chapar (SM) and Matt Fox, CEO of rental property company Snaptrip (MF).

What made you decide to start the business?

SM: We saw that traditional shopping methods, but on the high-street and online, weren’t right for the modern man’s shopping habits. He doesn’t have the time to shop and becomes overwhelmed when a huge amount of choices are scattered in front of him. He needed a curated selection of clothes picked out and sent to him to consume in a comfortable and convenient environment, such as his home. 

MF: From working in the sector I knew this was a fantastic opportunity, and I wanted to test myself at the highest level. Did I have what it takes to validate and build a high-growth tech start-up? It’s not an easy thing to do!

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

SM: We offer a different to concept to anything out there, so I would say our biggest challenge has been to educate people to what we do. Once men understand the service we offer, usually something clicks in their head and the typical response is ‘what a great idea!’.

MF: We quickly deduced that for Snaptrip to truly solve the issue of last minute bookings in our sector, the real opportunity is in accuracy of availability and pricing, to make the process as quick and easy for the consumer. That may seem so simple when hotels and flights have been doing it for years, but in the holiday rental sector, no aggregation site has 100 per cent live availability and pricing. We now offer that across the 30 or so partners we work with and works seamlessly on the site but it’s no easy task from a technical perspective!

What do you do differently for your customers?

SM: When you walk into a department store you are one of thousands of customers passing through each day. The store doesn’t know anything about you, your tastes, your lifestyle and what you are looking for. With us you benefit from a highly personalised one-to-one relationship with an expert stylist who gets to learn everything about you over time, so that all the waste of products and brands that aren’t right for you doesn’t happen.

MF: We provide the largest single portfolio of UK holiday rentals all with live availability and pricing and instantly bookable. No one else does that. 

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to start an e-commerce startup?

SM: I think nowadays you need to offer more than just a classic e-commerce platform. You can’t just sell a product now, you need to sell a value-add service. Online offers an amazing opportunity to provide something to your customers that is unique and exciting, and also gives you the ability to scale, which is always the goal for a new business! As long as you are offering an additional value to your customer, your business has a great chance of standing the test of time.

MF: Spend the early months focusing on how to validate and test your idea, not on the name or who could build it or that you need to get it out quickly before someone else has the idea! Too many entrepreneurs don’t realise the benefit of not just validating that there is a consumer problem that your idea can solve, but learning how the problem needs to be best solved.

Useful link: – Looking for funding? Find the right finance for your business here

Chad Deatherage is a serial entrepreneur and the VP of sales at Ultimate Merchant Providers.

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