Retail Worlds Q&A: Patrick Wall, CEO, MetaPack

Retail Systems catches up with Patrick Wall, the CEO of delivery management technology firm MetaPack, about his career and views on the industry.

How did you get into the sector?
I had experience of retail and consumer goods organisations before becoming general manager of a national parcels carrier. I helped to turn this around and learnt that specialisation was the only route forward for parcel carriers. I then consulted for a couple of years. This gave me exposure to early-stage internet companies, which brought several interests together and prompted the launch of MetaPack in 1999.

How long have you been in your current role and what have been the highlights so far?
I’ve been CEO at MetaPack for 17 years and during that time we have achieved major milestones. Those that stand out are the signing of John Lewis in 2002 and ASOS in 2008; in 2012 when we marked the handling of 100 million parcels on our platform; the opening of all our international offices through Europe and then the US; being listed in the 2014 Sunday Times Tech Track 100; and now being one of Europe’s top SaaS businesses.

In terms of technology developments, what have you got planned for the next 12 months?
Without giving away any big secrets, all of the technology plans that we have in the pipeline focus on making the logistics element of our platform as consumer-facing as possible. We are only too aware that delivery is being shaped by consumer demands for convenience, so we are enhancing our platform so that retailers and carriers can offer the best and most varied range of delivery options to their customers.

Would you say that the future of retail is mobile, online, physical stores or a mixture of all three?
The lines between mobile and online have become so blurred they are almost indistinct. We are living in a truly multi-channel world and the future of retail is in providing a seamless retail experience regardless of whether the engagement starts on a smartphone, a laptop at home or in a store. What is important is the quality of service and satisfying the customer right through to delivering their products at a time and location that is convenient to them.

What has impressed you about one of your recent online or High Street shopping experiences?
I like sites that keep me fully informed from start to finish. So an ideal online shop makes me aware of stock status and delivery options on the checkout page – I like to be able to choose the pick-up location on a local map. This gives me delivery options and the ability to change my delivery destination or time, and it’s always helpful to have good returns options too!

Is there anything that you dislike or that frustrates you about the sector?
There is too much focus on competition and not enough on collaboration and it is slowing progress. For example, open pick-up and drop-off points for deliveries would suit consumers very well, but they are slow in progressing because they require retailers to be more open about their proprietary technology. Such is the level of fierce competition in the retail and carrier sectors, they are reluctant to do this and it’s having a detrimental effect on a service that could be so beneficial.

Who in the industry inspires you and why?
Dino Rocos, director of operations (and currently stand-in managing director) at John Lewis. He has a clear sense of John Lewis’ values and these underpin everything he does in what is a hugely responsible role. His long-term planning, pragmatism and strategic approach is inspirational. He has also got a huge amount of industry experience but he doesn’t sit back or look back, he still has a very healthy approach to continual learning.

What technology can’t you live without?
It would be challenging to live without my iPhone. As for many people it represents so much more than just a communication tool because I have instant access to information, entertainment and commerce. I can control the world around me and do it on the go, and that means I am more efficient, better informed and always in touch – if I want to be. It’s become a pretty irreplaceable resource.

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