‘The appetite to engage with digital commerce is huge’

19 Jun 2017

Ciaran Bollard, MD at Kooomo. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

As part of our Leaders’ Insights series, we spoke to Kooomo’s Ciaran Bollard about simplifying digital commerce.

Ciaran Bollard is managing director of the Gartner Magic Quadrant 2017 platform Kooomo.

With previous roles at Diageo at SkillSoft, Bollard holds a postgraduate qualification in entrepreneurship from Dublin Institute of Technology.

Prior to joining Kooomo, he was CEO of Muzu TV, which he co-founded in 2006.

Describe your role and what you do.

My role at Kooomo has three focuses and all are people-related: clients, staff and partners.

Clients and partners are fundamental to giving me deeper insights into the fast-moving landscape of digital commerce and ensuring we meet the ever-changing needs, not least helping to simplify what is a very complex business.

Without our international staff, there wouldn’t be a business. Creating and supporting a collaborative, open and positive environment for all is a crucial element of success.

Another important role is telling the world about Kooomo and right now, that is consuming a lot of my time!

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

Everything aligned to our business plan takes priority so that goes top of the list every day.

Succinct communication flow between the managers and the team.

Turn off all distractions, email, IM and phone, and focus on what is important – otherwise it would be very easy to get distracted by the overflow of email.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

The complexity in choosing a digital commerce solution for most retailers is a lot to handle, so education and confusion are the biggest challenges. There is a big divide between the market opportunity (Irish consumers will spend €14bn a year on digital commerce sites by 2020) and the knowledge and skills needed in the workforce to mobilise the solutions, to take advantage of this spend.

It is our job as vendors to simplify this process, solve the business issues, and inform and turbocharge sales through education, awareness and training.

In addition, the pace at which technology has advanced means many businesses are struggling to keep up. The stats are there to show the opportunity that exists so the appetite to engage with digital commerce is huge, but it’s not always matched by the necessary understanding of how to execute and how to optimise digital.

Kooomo’s platform and our service is all about simplifying digital commerce, bringing brands on that journey from set-up to sale. We utilise all the advancements and tools available, and, because we’re cloud-based, it’s quick, agile and accessible.

Effectively, we act as a growth catalyst by taking the complexity out of the equation for clients, so that they can focus on the benefits and sell more across all channels their retail stores – eShop, eBay or Amazon.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Being a cloud commerce company gives us a huge advantage as there are only a very small number of true cloud solutions.

$2.1bn is predicted by Forrester Research Inc to be spent on commerce platform technology by 2019. Much of that spending comes from merchants outgrowing their current systems and switching to a SaaS cloud commerce platform.

Mobile is a given because it accounts for more than half of e-commerce sessions, and brands that want to sell and engage online know they have to manage this channel in sync with others.

85pc of customers start a purchase on one device and finish it on another, and multi-channel shoppers spend three times more than single-channel shoppers, so Kooomo capitalises on the very tangible and growing opportunity that multi- and omni-channel presents.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

After 10 years as an entrepreneur running my own digital music business, and seeing the size of the market opportunity and there being very few vendors with a compelling proposition relative to the market size, I made the conscious decision to move into e-commerce.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

Allowing work to dominate my life, which can make you lose perspective. Having balance allows you to make balanced, focused decisions, and keeps everyone happy.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Creating a positive, open and supportive culture that creates its own leaders, fostering a dynamic that creates accountability and responsibility without needing to micro-manage people.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to be more inclusive?

This is not evident in e-commerce that I have experienced particularly, given that most businesses in this sector are empowering retailers to sell online, so there is a lot of cultural diversity and gender diversity.

We are very proud that we have a very diverse staff base from all over the world – from South America, India, Europe, US and Asia – and we believe this is actually a very important factor of success. We thrive on and need diversity, in our people and in our thinking. We may be a tech company, but we also need to think marketing, consumers, business and retail.

Our mission is about the democratisation of digital commerce. Being inclusive is in our DNA.

Who is your role model and why?

Elon Musk. His will, his determination, his success and his dedication to his personal vision.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

The Art of War by Sun Tzu – a short book with incredible insights into leadership.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

HubSpot, SalesOptimize and Kooomo.

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