Retail Worlds Q&A: Derek O’Carroll, CEO, Brightpearl

Derek O’Carroll, the CEO of omnichannel retail management platform Brightpearl, talks to Retail Systems about his career and views on the industry.

How did you get into the sector?
I was looking for a growth market that was open to future disruption through technology adoption. That’s when I came across the back-office for retail and found Brightpearl. The retail management system, coupled with the team’s retail experience, provided all the ingredients for hyper growth potential. Not only that, the retail sector is fuelled by technology that helps independent retailers compete with their larger competitors.

How long have you been in your current role and what have been the highlights so far?

I’ve been Brightpearl’s CEO for 12 months and it’s proved to be a transformative year for the company. We’ve increased customer utilisation of the platform by 41 per cent in the past six months, delivered a 33 per cent improvement in the average deployment time of our clients, increased revenue from existing customers by 26 per cent, raised our Net Promoter Score by 36 points in six months, and opened new offices in Austin, Texas.

In terms of technology developments, what have you got planned for the next 12 months?
There’s many exciting technology developments in our pipeline for 2017. We’re investing £3.6 million in omnichannel capabilities this year – including our new iOS point of sale. Retail automation is another big area of focus for us. We’ll be launching our fully integrated warehouse management system later this year, and we’re also building high-performance and resilient connectors to third-party platforms including Shopify, Magento 2 and BigCommerce.

Would you say that the future of retail is mobile, online, physical stores or a mixture of all three?
The future of retail needs to include all three; mobile, online and physical stores, as the lines between online and physical merge. Today, retailers need to keep up with the ever-changing customer journey and that involves adopting an omnichannel retail strategy because consumers expect to be treated in the same way, whether they walk through a store or buy online.

What has impressed you about one of your recent online or High Street shopping experiences?
I recently purchased an advanced outdoor cooker called a Big Green Egg from Alfresco Concepts, a niche independent retailer in the UK. I was very impressed with the whole online shopping experience and the subsequent customer service was excellent, coupled with a speedy delivery. The educational material provided on how to use the product was an added bonus.

Is there anything that you dislike or that frustrates you about the sector?
My biggest frustration with the retail industry is that many retailers are investing too much time and resource on back-office processes and monotonous admin tasks that should be automated. Automation can make retailers more efficient and free up valuable human resources to help retailers focus on optimising their margins and growth activities such as marketing, sales and customer relationship management.

Who in the industry inspires you and why?
John Lewis because they always put customer success at the core of their business and start from the perspective that the customer is always right. I’m inspired by how they’ve led the way in business culture, as opposed to technology. All John Lewis employees are also stakeholders in their business which is really important in today’s hypercompetitive retail landscape.

What technology can’t you live without?
At Brightpearl we love to use Slack, which provides real-time messaging and helps us coordinate complex projects with a degree of fun. I use it both on my computer and phone – which is another piece of technology I can’t live without!

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