First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Adam Taylor: Despite the understandable challenges that have come with the pandemic, my wife, our two daughters, our two cats, and I are all healthy, which I am thankful for. Pet shops are classed as essential businesses, so we are very fortunate to have remained open throughout.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Petshop.co.uk.
Adam Taylor: I’m the CEO and co-founder of Petshop.co.uk – an eCommerce business that focuses on home delivery and subscriptions of branded dog and cat food.
The 2008 recession cost me my job at Lehman Brothers. It didn’t immediately feel like there was an opportunity around the corner for me and my girlfriend – now wife – Lexi.
With the financial crisis still fresh in our minds, we were looking for recession-proof business opportunities. At the time, I was living back at my family home with all of our dogs and cats. My mum would never remember to stock up on food for them, and I would keep running to the shops for new supplies of Iams dog food and Felix cat food. My mother’s arthritis made it harder for her to pick up large quantities, and I began to wonder whether there was an easier way.
When I started researching further, I found that innovation was absent despite there being a pet industry boom. There was no efficient way to acquire a dog and cat food, and nobody was offering a subscription service, which seemed bizarre to me due to the repetitive purchase pattern of dog and cat food.
This also coincided at the time where subscription services like Spotify were becoming more prominent. That’s when we realized there was a hidden opportunity. Pet food delivery is very well suited for the subscription model because dogs, cats, rabbits, and fish generally eat the same food for most of their lives. With this thought, PetShop.co.uk was born with Bottomless Bowl, our first dog, and cat food subscription service.
How does Petshop.co.uk innovate?
Adam Taylor: We sell brands such as Whiskas, Hill’s Science Plan, James Wellbeloved, Royal Canin, Felix, Pro Plan, and Harringtons dog and cat food. We compete directly with large retailers, so innovation is at the heart of our business and the key to our success and growth to out maneuverer large competitors.
We innovate by obsessing about our customers, and we put them on a pedestal. This came naturally to us, and we found that if you do this well, then everything else falls into place. For example, Pet Parents want to feed the highest quality food that they can afford. We then work very closely with brands – which are an extension of our team – to help educate new customers about the health and value benefits of their products.
Our canvas for our innovation outlet is our software system. We choose Oracle NetSuite’s business management system for the exact reason. It means there are no limitations to our creativity and innovation because of what the system does for us.
Before NetSuite, we had a very manual way of operating, using standalone software platforms, and I was personally making deliveries on my scooter. We used Google Calendar invites for reminders to manage our Bottomless Bowl pet food subscription service – it was very primitive!
Now, our business is very technology-driven, and NetSuite allows us to operate efficiently while delivering a great customer experience. Personalization is very important to us. Through software, we’ve been able to offer direct customer interaction, which can sometimes be lost online. For example, through NetSuite, we collect information such as breed, size, and age to suggest what food would be best for our customers’ pets. Since this data is in one place, we have complete visibility over purchasing patterns. This allows us to provide additional valuable insights for our shoppers, such as how frequently they should order pet food.
We plan to continue innovating and revolutionizing the outdated pet industry by offering PetShop.co.uk customers an unparalleled customer experience, focusing on price, service, and reliability.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how are you coping?
Adam Taylor: Now, more than ever, people are shopping online. Since March, there has been a huge influx of orders, and our ‘Bottomless Bowl’ auto-delivery service has seen an increase in demand. The service is unique to PetShop.co.uk, which allows Pet Parents to choose the food they like and then set the delivery frequency, so they never need to worry about buying or carrying heavy pet food again.
NetSuite has been critical to business continuity. It has allowed the team to cope with the sheer volume of orders. The platform provides real-time analytics, enabling us to monitor, report, and analyze key events and spikes in demand. Moreover, this allows the team to assess and strategize successfully.
We saw a 300% increase in sales during the first lockdown. This was achieved using tools and technology that we already had but were not maximizing before, which led to improvements in invoicing, stock management, and cashflow forecasting and helped provide a better service. We have also invested more time into social media channels such as Instagram, Snapchat, and others, which weren’t really on our radar before. These channels help us communicate with new and existing customers, learn more about their preferences, and gain valuable insight into how we can provide customers with a better online experience in the future.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Adam Taylor: The difficult business choices we have had to make have been when to invest in expanding our business over the years.
The risk is over-exposing ourselves to financial commitments that the business is not able to afford. Key areas that we are constantly reviewing are our warehouse capacity, stock holdings, and software.
We are very fortunate since – we’ve made the right decisions to invest at the right time, which has fueled our double-digit growth over the past 5 years. Software being the backbone of most business is probably one of the most important decisions, as several years ago, it was a hindrance.
Back in 2014, we started to see problems with order accuracy and getting orders out the same or next day, so we knew we needed to address this as the problems would become magnified as we grew. We also knew that to be different from our competitors, we needed to innovate and disrupt the industry by offering our Pet Parent customers and the brands we work with something new and helpful.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Petshop.co.uk in the future?
Adam Taylor: I am extremely lucky to have such a supportive network around me. This reduces the impact of day-to-day stresses which arise from running an eCommerce business. I try and think strategically about variables that are within my control, especially in the current climate we find ourselves in.
Running a business is always eventful, with big ups and downs at times. I do tell myself frequently if it were easy; everyone would do it. But finding ways to manage stress and anxiety is key, but I find doing yoga focusing on all the things that I am truly grateful for very helpful.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Adam Taylor: We are competing against the likes of Petsathome, and Zooplus, a big publicly listed German company. Technology gives us a scale, and as I mentioned previously, the personalized aspect of our service sets us apart from our competitors.
Coupled with this passion for customer service, I’m obsessed with constantly trying to improve and innovate to give Pet Parents the best possible experience, to avoid the taxing task of going out and carrying heavy supplies for their pets. The fact we love our customers is what makes us stand apart from our competitors. Internally we have developed our customer service framework we called the “Mum Promise” – we treat all customers as we would want our mums to be treated.
We are blessed every day to have amazing customer support and feedback. Customers thank us for our service, refer us to their friends and family, and some even ask about my family and pet’s health, which is truly heart-warming and makes it all worth it.
Your final thoughts?
Adam Taylor: The ‘new normal,’ whatever that may be, is a strange and unusual place. However, through utilizing available technologies and adapting as an eCommerce company, we are successfully overcoming any obstacles that arise. Fundamentally, it is imperative to remember that the customer is at the heart of PetShop.co.uk – I will always try and embody that mantra, and then everything else falls into place.