One-2-One With Andrew Hill

Andy Hill smaller
Commercial Director, Electio

When did you take up your position with the company and what does your role involve?

I joined Electio in 2014 and head up the team responsible for developing new commercial client relationships. I came to Electio after spending 20 years in the logistics industry, working for firms such as Yodel and more recently MetaPack; I was also part of the team that launched CollectPlus. Building carrier partnerships and helping to develop innovative new services for retailers is something I’ll always be passionate about!

Who else is in the senior management team besides you?

David Grimes is the CEO of MPD Group, the group behind the development of Electio, Ruta Makunaite is responsible for all our technical development, Susie Lee-Kilgariff is marketing director, Paul Hill is director of client technology, Danny Summers looks after finance and John Crowther, the ex CIO at ao.com, has also come on board as non-executive director. We welcomed Vickey Eggleston as our new Partner Manager just this week.

How big is your organisation today?

We employ 35 people across the group.

What’s your USP that sets you apart from other companies?

When we set out to build Electio, we took a good look at what else was available and aimed to surpass it. Customers told us that speed of integration was a deal-breaker so our architecture reflects this; retailers can connect to Electio in as little as three weeks. We also spotted that the market didn’t serve anyone outside the high street giants, so designed our software to be accessible to all – our technology ultimately allows all retailers to compete on a level playing field and this really excites us.

Can you tell us in more detail about what technology you use?

Electio is a SaaS-based delivery management platform. It sits between a retailer and their multiple carrier partners and picks the best delivery option for every parcel, based on rules set by the retailer. For the carriers, it tends to mean they receive the type of traffic they want most rather than having to absorb less profitable parts of the shipping profile. It is already integrated with the UK’s leading carriers and we’re adding more services constantly. The majority of retailers will integrate Electio into their CMS, order management or warehouse management systems via our simple REST API. Because our API is brand new, it doesn’t suffer from legacy issues that hamper other software providers in the market. It is language agnostic saving weeks of development time, is built on Microsoft Azure for unrivalled resilience and uptime performance and, from what our developers tell me, has a jawdroppingly good SDK (software development kit).

Can you talk us through how clients use your services?

Most retailers manage their carrier relationships directly which can lead to inefficiencies in the supply chain – warehouse operatives having to log in to different systems to generate labels for instance or decisions about which carrier to use being made manually rather than automatically. Once Electio has been integrated into your CMS, OMS or WMS, all your carriers can be managed through one beautifully designed User Interface (UI). Users can monitor performance in real time, switching between services at the click of a button if there is a sudden problem with capacity or volume caps are about to be exceeded. Electio’s UI also allows Customer Service teams to proactively manage the rare occasions when things go wrong, replacing lost items or streamlining the returns process.

What do you see as the biggest external factors currently driving demand for your services?

Ecommerce is only going in one direction. Sales are continuing to grow by at least 10% year-on-year in all sectors, with eMarketer estimating that online sales will total 19.3% of all retail sales by 2019. Customers are increasingly demanding convenience when selecting their delivery method, from named day deliveries to click and collect, driving retailers to offer more and more choice. We know that maintaining lots of carrier relationships can be a drain on a retailer’s resources. Existing solutions on the market are failing to make the management of this task as easy as possible, and often don’t even offer good value for money, creating pent up demand for an alternative.

What are the key elements for the business in achieving a positive customer service experience?

We’re small enough to be agile in responding to customer demands and have employed some of the country’s top talent in developing our platform. This means that customers are often pleasantly surprised when we show them our short implementation timing plans, they love how easy our UI is to use and are reassured by our performance statistics. We’ve also developed a fixed cost licensing model for our software rather than the traditional pay per label, which means customers can plan their spend in advance and not feel penalised when they grow.

Another trend in business is for everyone to want integrated, seamless, joined up information. What are you offering in response?

I think delivery management technology is a gift for data scientists. Electio’s reporting suite gives real time access to huge amounts of carrier data, which is standardised to allow retailers to compare apples with apples and also impartial, so differing definitions of ‘delivered’ are no longer a bone of contention. Rather than limiting our customers to pre-defined templates, we allow you to select and slice the data to suit your requirements. Popular examples are carrier performance by geographical region or first time success rate. We also have plans in the pipeline to offer metadata to our customers so they can see how carriers are performing for them against the market as a whole.

What opportunities and challenges have you been presented with in recent times?

We are talking to some large retailers about specific projects where Electio’s technology could make a big impact. These include online returns portals and methods to quickly and easily migrate from existing providers to Electio. A number of 3PLs and ecommerce platforms are also interested in integrating Electio into their systems to add value to their propositions. Our biggest challenge remains in finding enough talented developers to keep up with demand so we’ll be investing in our employer brand throughout 2016.

How important is energy efficiency in your business and have you made any investment into energy saving recently?

We’re not high consumers of energy so other than a robust environmental policy about recycling, transport, sustainability etc, it’s not a high priority for us.

Are you taking part in any exhibitions over the next few months, to get your message across?

We’re going to be at IMRG’s Fashion Connect conference on 11th February and eDelivery Expo on 27th-28th April.

Any plans for acquisitions or investments?

We recently made a strategic investment in Postio, a peer to peer social shipping platform. It will harness the empty boots and back seats of drivers around the country in return for currency, whether that’s money, points or vouchers. We believe it will be part of the solution to the fact that demand is outstripping capacity in the logistics industry.

If you could send a message to the Transport Secretary, what would it be?

We’d like to see government action, whether through legislation or softer ‘nudge’ techniques to encourage carrier consolidation hubs where all carriers can deliver into single points without it being anti-competitive. Doing it in Manchester as part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative would be a great start!

Where do you see the company going from here?

We have hugely ambitious growth plans and a bucket full of creative ideas. We expect to double our staff numbers within 12 months, launch new add-ons to our software, expand overseas and investigate markets outside of retail, all in pursuit of achieving our vision of becoming the first choice for logistics technology in the UK and around the world.