Ahead of the launch of the ‘Retail Insider Digital Retail Innovations Top 50’ report 2016 (sponsored by Webloyalty) on July 6 here is the first in a series of Q&A’s with the leading figures behind some of the key digitally-driven innovations in the retail industry.
Q&A with Tim Robinson, founder and CEO of Doddle (placed at No.1 in the 2015 report)
- How did the original idea come about?
I spent a lot of my career in and around railway stations but had been observing the decline of ticket offices as people bought tickets online – a trend that matched people’s growing preference for shopping online. Marrying available retail space in train stations with the parcels commuters wouldn’t be home to receive seemed like an idea to explore. So I approached Network Rail and they agreed to trial it, on the condition I found an external investor, which I did in Lloyd Dorfman, founder of Travelex. We signed the joint venture in May 2014 and now have 45 stores around the UK with over 151,000 customers.
- What was the early level of take-up of the service?
There were times early on when it felt really tough getting people to try Doddle for the first time, but we were reassured once customers tried it for the first time and they came back, repeatedly. Within a few months of opening, we found that customers who had used Doddle once went on to use the service 13 times on average. But there was definitely an education journey we had to take our customers on to get there.
- What about competition for last-mile solutions?
It’s a very competitive space, but it’s also a big market and customers have a range of different delivery needs so there’s room for a range of solutions. I would say however that there still isn’t a plethora of solutions that are truly agnostic – services that any customer can use with any retailer or carrier – which is one of Doddle’s key USPs.
- How has the solution been advanced/developed over time?
How long have we got?! This business is a continuous process of learning, improving, reviewing and learning some more. The experience a Doddle customer has today is very different from those first days of Doddle in our pilot store in Milton Keynes and we will continue to make improvements and developments to the service to make it easier for customers. What we have realised is that the opportunity for Doddle is much greater than we initially thought, where once it was grounded in railway stations, we now have stores in universities, shopping centres and business parks, the sky’s the limit!
- Have there been any surprises along the way?
Lots. Every day is a school day at Doddle. One of the most interesting surprises was that our early research indicated a customer would leave a parcel in a store for 2.5 days before collecting. In reality, a parcel rarely stays in our store overnight. Customers are much more impatient for their goods than we initially expected.
- Tell us about the new innovations at Doddle?
We have recently launched our Doddle Neighbour service in seven locations in the South East and South West. Enabling members of the community to become a trusted parcel service for their neighbours to send and receive parcels and online shopping. To make this come to life, we’ve shrunk the technology we developed to run a Doddle store so that it fits on an iPad. We’re really excited about the future of this service and will be rolling it out to many more locations in the coming months.
- What can we expect from Doddle in the future?
More store locations, Doddle Runners, Doddle Neighbours and new formats but always with a focus on making life easier for our customers.
- Do you have any recommendations for entries in the 2016 Digital Retail Innovations report?
Brilliant customer experience and journeys are one thing; never lose sight of the customer pain point you are trying to fix.
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