Gerard Keohane is an eCommerce expert with over 15 years of industry-grade web development experience. In 2006, Ger founded StudioForty9, an award-winning team with a national and international reputation for excellence, specialising in systems integration and omnichannel retail eCommerce.
StudioForty9 is the 2017 “Supplier of the Year” to the retail industry, awarded by Retail Excellence Ireland and has been a Shopware Enterprise Partner since 2017.
We sat down with Ger to find out why Shopware is relevant for the Irish market, how retailers can connect content & commerce, and how online shops can best prepare for market changes in the future.
1. What is the secret behind your triumph with Shopware?
Triumph might be a strong word :-) - we have been working with Shopware for almost 2 years now and have very much enjoyed developing our relationship with the Shopware team.
In 2017 our CTO spent a number of months researching growing and alternative eCommerce platforms around the world. During this time we learned about Shopware, the feature set, the tech stack, and the company culture - and we were keen to reach out and create a relationship.
Since those early conversations we have become a Shopware Enterprise Partner, we have launched two Shopware sites and we are currently working on several new Shopware sites to go live in Q2 and Q3 of 2019. We are strong advocates of the Shopware platform and believe it is a great solution for many of our existing client's replatforming needs and potential new clients in the Irish retail market. Our developers enjoy working on the platform and our clients' eCommerce managers enjoy using the backend.
2. Why is Shopware relevant for the Irish market? Where do you see Shopware in the market?
We feel that Shopware is a good fit for a wide range of Irish retailers. For retailers with existing online experience, and a long list of requirements, it offers a great platform for them to use to accellerate further growth of their eCommerce business. For those looking to get online for the first time, it brings with it a strong User Experience out of the box, and a strong feature set which will allow merchants to start with all the basics and more, and easily improve and expand features over time.
Another proven advantage of the Shopware platform is its maturity and success in Germany with thousands of online stores. It is important for us and our Irish retailers to feel that there is strength and depth behind the brand.
Finally, the licence fees, subscription packages and support costs are very competitive within the wider eCommerce market and offer a good cost point for retailers of all sizes and experience.
3. What does the retailer need in order to be prepared for the future of eCommerce?
Primarily, an awareness of the eCommerce data they have access to through their website, and how readily they can integrate that with their warehousing and brick-and-mortar systems. Bringing their systems together into a seamless, 'omnichannel' experience for their customers that allows pre-sale, point-of-sale, and post-sale support and marketing to flow without interruption between online and offline. That's the future today's customers are looking for, and it is what retailers should be offering or preparing themselves to offer!
Beyond that, retailers must understand that customers aren't just looking to 'buy online', they're expecting a 'retail experience' that just so happens to also be online. An experience that parallels what they are used to seeing in the physical stores. It isn't enough to simply throw products online with a price and hope they sell, much the same as you can't do it in your physical stores.
As online customers become better educated, they're looking for a demonstration of the 'added extras' and USPs a retailer offers over its competitors. They want to be 'sold to', with engaging and interactive media and content that is supported by user reviews and feedback on social media.
Lastly, they need to be confident a site will both deliver on the quality and customer service promised, as well as handle their personal data with the respect and security that it deserves. If a retailer can nail all these needs, they should be well aligned for what's to come.
4. How exactly can brands incorporate content into commerce?
In today's media-rich internet, there's a swathe of opportunities to enhance the shopping experience with content. Beyond the original and engaging text-based copy you have to describe your products, it's now possible to support both your products and your brand with video, interactive experiences (such as a virtual tour of your store, or 3D render of a product), and trusted third-party content such as reviews through the likes of Trustpilot and Feefo.
Technical opportunities aside, it's worth investing time to curate aspirational content that focuses on more than just the nuts-and-bolts of a product. Sell the prestige, sell the reliability, sell the experience. Rather than just selling a watch, why not bring on board a renowned sportsperson and dedicate a page to their experiences in their field, ensuring the overarching message is that 'the watch never let them down'. Content is about experiences... and great experiences turn into great sales.
5. What does eCommerce look for you in the near future?
I would imagine that to begin with the future of eCommerce will involve us losing the "e" - because eCommerce will be entirely folded into the overall retail proposition and will be a seamless part of a retailers business and interface with their customers. For me, the near future will involve true omnichannel commerce leveraging completely scaleable, API based eCommerce.
Customers can buy anything a retailer has anywhere in the retail group, whether the SKU is in a warehouse, on order, or in a store. Furthermore, the customer can buy products the retailer has access to from any of their partners and suppliers. The sale can be made online, on mobile, in-store, on a kiosk, through marketplaces, through social, through chatbots, through voice commerce. The payment and refund process will be seamless, 1-click fast with connected digital wallets and better payment gateway APIs.
The customer can have their order delivered anywhere they like using ship to store, collect from store, ship to collection points, home-delivery and so forth with complete visibility over the journey of their order at all times.
In short, the retailer can sell everything, to everyone, everywhere. That for me is the near future of ecommerce.
We want to thank Ger for this interview and look forward to the many exciting projects that will result from this partnership. Find out more about Ger and his team: