We caught up with Charlie Casey, the co-founder of the bespoke loyalty program for online stores, Loyalty Lion. They’ve made it onto The Fresh Business Thinking Shift 100, The Retail Technology edition in association with KPMG.
What made you decide to launch your business?
Charlie: It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do in my life since about 6 or 7 years old. The people around me as a kid were entrepreneurial and as a child l sole horseshoes, sweets and chicken eggs on the side of the road.
It was also just good timing. I finished university and I got a good job at Deloitte with a solid network around me. I also no financial ties and I was looking for something new and exciting, so I thought: “why not?”
I didn’t actually have a business idea when I took a 12-month sabbatical from Deloitte, I just had the passion to start a company. I had a couple of ideas with a friend of mine that didn’t work out and then I ended up launching an event business. The aim was to connect people around London and make people more sociable by adding an element of gamification by rewarded people for attending events or by inviting friends.
We then pitched to a business competition where although they didn’t love the idea, they really liked us. So, we were accepted into startupbootcamp Berlin, the top business accelerator in Europe. We were the first team ever to be invited in with no business idea.
Through that programme, we met with people who worked for Otto which is second to Amazon in terms in e-commerce in Europe. We met the person who launched the world’s biggest loyalty programme and then we started sharing our ideas around gamification. We thought about turning our events company into a customer engagement and loyalty platform, and from there it has gone from strength to strength.
If you had one piece of advice for an entrepreneur just starting up, what would it be?
Charlie: The number one thing is focus. With so little time and resources, you need one or two things to work on and push them the furthest, as opposed to doing lots of things but getting nowhere.
If someone tells me I’ve got a start-up that does everything for someone, it, in fact, does nothing for no one.
What were the main challenges to setting up your business?
Charlie: Money and people. Access to capital at the beginning was a challenge. Getting the right people is permanently a challenge. The quality of your business is the quality of the people, therefore, hiring and retaining the best people is something we have put an awful lot of effort into.
What do you think will be the future trends for the retail tech sector?
Charlie: There is a divide occurring in retail at the moment, especially from an e-commerce perspective. It is now becoming more centralised and dominated by the few, which is a real shame. When e-commerce arrived, it lowered the barriers to entry and allowed tens of thousands of diverse e-commerce stores to be created in little time. But as times goes on, it seems to be going the exact same way as the high street, where it's dominated by big brands and all the small businesses go out of business.
I hope that one of the future trends will be a collaboration between small companies, because they don’t stand a chance on their own. They don’t have the economy to scale, compared to someone like Amazon, so they can’t do the logistics in the same way, and they don’t have the buying power. Nevertheless, as a collective, they would stand a chance.
Do you think there has been a shift in consumer behaviour?
Charlie: It’s not so much a shift, but a continuation. Consumers have a lot more power because choice and access to information is increasing. I think consumers will continue to do more research and that’s a good thing, because it means that businesses must up their game and offer excellent customer service and support. However, it poses a new challenge for loyalty, because once you acquire a customer, you can’t be guaranteed they will repeat their custom unless you are ticking all their boxes and you continue making improvements.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Charlie: Surpassing 1000 clients. Now we have over 1000 e-commerce stores who use Loyalty Lion today, which is tens of millions of shoppers.