Q&A: Glenn Shoosmith, CEO, BookingBug
Retail Technology Innovation Hub: Tell us about yourself.
Glenn Shoosmith: I’m CEO and Co-founder of BookingBug. We’re a powerful scheduling platform that helps retailers create more profitable customer relationships by focusing on their most important interactions. After graduating in 1997 with a degree in computer science, I spent 10 years working in a wide variety of industries, as a developer, consultant, team and project manager. I ended up writing trading systems for some of the world’s biggest investment banks before starting work on BookingBug in 2008.
RTIH: What inspired you to set the company up?
GS: Back in 2008 when I was working at an investment bank, I was searching online trying to find a squash court near my home. It was virtually impossible to find any information at all on Google, and when I did finally find details of a court, I turned up that evening to play and it turned out it had actually closed down months ago.
It was incredibly frustrating, and I knew there had to be another way. What we quickly discovered was that, to manage appointments and bookings at scale is actually a non-trivial technical challenge. With that in mind, we approached the task with a slightly different philosophy: what if you managed time as if it were a stock inventory item. Soon, major retailers were encountering the same kinds of problem when trying to offer added value services in their stories - and they relied on BookingBug as the easy solution.
RTIH: What has been the industry reaction thus far?
GS: Our growth over the last few years has come largely from the industry itself. As the internet has started to intrude on High Street retail, they were seeing customers enter stores, browse, and then buy the items on their phone - a trend known as “showrooming.”
In response to this, they started looking to give customers better reasons to come and spend time in their stores, instead of just browsing. Companies like Jessops started photography classes, Pets at Home came up with pet nutrition sessions, American Golf wanted to provide bespoke fittings. However, they quickly found that the challenge of managing bookings in a way that provided a great customer experience was larger than they thought. That’s when they really started approaching us.
RTIH: What has been your biggest challenge/setback?
GS: I think for any entrepreneur, the challenge of scaling to different countries, without losing the culture that has made you successful, is a threat. But especially when dealing with verticals like retail, banking and government, we have also had to adapt to the different customer experience expectations in each region. We’ve explored a lot of different ways to maintain this consistency, but ultimately a clarity of our mission, as well as spreading the original team across the globe, has proven the best solution.
RTIH: What are the biggest challenges facing multi-channel retailers right now?
GS: One of the areas we see discussed a lot is still how you prioritise between customers as they walk through the doors of your store. The fact is, a small handful of those individuals are planning to come in and spend a significant amount of money with you, or are looking to learn more to inform a single high value purchase.
Too often, marketers in retail are spending a lot of money on persuading those customers to turn up for expert advice - and then allowing them to wander in to maybe, or maybe not, get approached by the in- store team. Joining up those channels, making sure you know who is arriving when, being able to tie how you treat them into your CRM system, is simple now. And there’s no replacement for it in the customer experience.
RTIH: What can we expect to see from your company over the next 12 months?
GS: An enormous amount of our projects are now taking place across the world, based out of several new offices. The second major area of growth is integrations of the platform into other products. Facebook and Google are already connected straight to BookingBug, and many digital agencies and implementation teams build around BookingBug, so they can save time on this area, knowing they have a world-class solution.