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Interview with Barnaby Moffat, co-founder and Commercial Director of KPS UK

Barnaby Moffat, co-founder and Commercial Director of KPS UK, has 20 years of experience in helping businesses transform their e-commerce and CX solutions.  

KPS UK specialises in building connected customer experiences for international brands across the retail, wholesale, leisure and life science sectors. Co-founders Barnaby Moffat, Branwell Moffat and Tim Hillman have taken KPS from a startup to an award-winning, fast-growing business whose clients include Dreams, Brakes, Arsenal FC, LK Bennett, Office Shoes, The Body Shop, and Saint Gobain.

By harnessing their unique blend of integrity and entrepreneurial spirit, the team creates e-commerce sites that deliver increased revenue and conversion rates via a seamless shopping experience.

The company, which employs just under 200 at its offices in South London, became part of the German-owned KPS Group four years ago. Since becoming an accredited SAP centre of expertise eight years ago, KPS UK has continued to strengthen its relationships and expertise in this area and recently won the coveted accolade of global SAP CX Partner of the Year.

So what qualities does Barnaby have that have contributed to the company’s success?  Lisa Baker spoke to him for UK Tech News:

 

“My childhood taught me how to be resilient”

My parents split up early on and our family moved around a lot, so I went to 12 different schools. I’d be at one place for six months, start to make friends and then we’d move, and I’d have to do the same thing all over again. I was this short, fat kid who wasn’t much good at sport, apart from roller hockey. I didn’t excel academically, and I was also a bit of a late developer. I had to work hard at building friendships, but it taught me how to get along with people, to be adaptable and resilient.

Looking back, having to sink or swim at all those different schools was a valuable experience. Working out how to make it into certain social circles, avoid the bullies and understand how things worked taught me resilience and a positive mental attitude.

 

“I love science but not enough to wear a lab coat”

As a self-confessed nerd, I love science enough to be interested in it but not to wear a lab coat. Before studying Business with Combined Science at the University of the West of England, I started a materials science course at Queen Mary, University of London but found that delving into the subject that deeply, made it a bit dull. The combined science course was ideal because it spanned multiple scientific areas such as biology, chemistry, materials science and physics but from a viewpoint of practical application.

 

“You take a lot of punches when you’re cold-calling hundreds of people”

Before we set up Foresite, Bran and I worked at a computer hardware wholesaler which was brutal. It was a real baptism of fire – anyone who hadn’t had a sale in the last half an hour was made to stand on their desk and wear a corset until they got one. We were self-taught when it came to sales but I’d already built my own computers, so at least I understood all the components I was selling. I think it also comes back to being able to understand how to add value, being tenacious and willing to take the hits. You take a lot of punches when you’re cold-calling hundreds of people. But you have to do those hard yards and go through that pain to come out the other side.

 

“I’ve always thought I’m unemployable”

When we started our first business Foresite in 1997, we still had to explain to people that the internet was a good idea. It seems crazy now that it’s become such a fundamental part of our lives but back then we were putting our necks on the line. I’ve always thought I’m unemployable because I don’t like people telling me what to do, so it suited me to be in a venture where we were breaking ground in what was an embryonic industry. Taking that risk and using our own judgments to push us down the right road has been, and still is, a real thrill.

 

‘Trust is earned in drops and lost in buckets’

We started out with nothing except a blank sheet of paper. Working out of my spare bedroom, we had one computer and a dial-up modem. I didn’t have much furniture, so we were sitting on orange boxes and sharing one desk between the three of us. In the two decades since then, we’ve worked hard to build and maintain our reputation. I’m proud that we still have the same values we started out with, even though we employ almost 200 people in the UK. As someone once said: ‘Trust is earned in drops and lost in buckets.’

 

‘Building a rapport means understanding customers’ pain points’

As the sales guy here, my job is to find good-looking doors, open them and push Bran through so that he can take things to the next stage. Once he’s done his part, he then hands on the baton to our Chief Technology Officer, Tim. I see myself as empathetic and good at reading people which is important in building a rapport with potential clients, understanding their drivers and pain points, and working out the best way to deliver value for their business. Even now, 20 years on, I still find it endlessly fascinating. It’s a privilege to be invited behind the scenes of leading international retailers, food wholesalers, life science companies and football clubs. The fact they trust us with their digital hopes and dreams keeps me on my toes. And it’s never a case of just repeating what we’ve done before because every business is different.

 

‘There’s a Wild West spirit to this industry’

What’s fascinating about this industry is that it’s constantly innovating – it never stops. If a retailer isn’t continuing to invest in improvements to their customer experience, they’re going backwards, because their competition is coming up behind them. Although it’s more mature now, there’s still a bit of a Wild West spirit about this industry. We’re still seeing huge disruption in industries and new ways of doing things and I absolutely love it. There are plenty of examples such as Woolworths and Blockbusters, of businesses that were once mainstream but have now gone from our lives, because they failed to keep up with how people want to engage with brands and products.

 

‘Customer experience is the modern battleground’

The modern battleground is in customer experience because if a customer has the choice of two brands offering the same product – one slightly more expensive but offering something more rewarding, fun and convenient – then that’s where they’ll shop. And it’s infinitely measurable in terms of sales value, conversion rates and all the core KPIs by which retailers live and die. If a customer goes into a store to return an online order in-store, if they’re told: ‘Sorry, that’s an online order, we can’t do that.’ that’s considered ridiculous. It’s all part of the expectation the consumer has of a joined-up customer experience. We aim to show those customers who are less digitally mature what we could be doing for them. It’s not just about delivering the capability to be able to sell online, it’s also to facilitate their customer services, sales units, to manage customer data and deliver joined-up customer experiences.

 

‘We’ve learned what ‘good’ looks like’

By leveraging everything we’ve learned from working with many different types of companies during the past 20 years, we’ve learnt what good looks like when it comes to ways in which businesses can deliver customer experience.

Using our Digital Acceleration Program, we can measure a customer against 400 different markers of digital best practice and compare them with their competitors. We’re able to go to a CEO and say: ‘Your company scores 39 out of 100 in digital maturity but your competition is sitting in the 50s, 60s and 70s. What value would it add if you could leapfrog that? We can show you where the gaps are; where the biggest bang for buck might be within that; and then help you build a roadmap to that digital maturity.’

 

‘The single-channel model worked fine in the 1980s’

Businesses used to be very siloed. When we first engaged with bed retailer Dreams, its retail presence operated completely separately from its digital operations. That was fine through the 1980s and 1990s but now consumers expect a connected customer experience. Buying a new bed is complicated and expensive. You don’t just pop into a store and say: ‘I’ll have 10 of these’, throw them in your basket and off you go. It’s a considered purchase and a perfect example of why the industry’s switched from the old siloed, segmented single-channel models to an omnichannel model, using the connected customer experience.

 

‘Retailers know who you are, what you like and what you want to look at’

It might start with browsing on your iPad, sitting on the sofa in your pyjamas at 11pm. Once you’ve come up with a list of beds you’re interested in –various materials, spring types and sizes – you’ll want to go into a store to test them out because you’re not going to spend a a significant amount of money without touching the product. You walk into a Dreams outlet and the sales assistant says: ‘Hi John, I can see your shortlist here. Let me show you to the beds you’re considering. By the way, this mattress topper goes well with this bed. Shall I add it to your wish list?’ Back home and online, you’ll notice the mattress topper is now in your wish list because the sales assistant added it. You might want to buy the bed and the mattress topper at this point or decide to visit a different store and because it’s all connected, they’ll know who you are, what you like and what you want to look at.

Once you’ve finally bought that new bed, you’ll then need to interact with the retailer’s customer services. There are delivery dates to sort out and they may need to store it for you or take your old bed away. Again, that interaction needs to be properly joined up and if it’s not, you’ll get annoyed and think: ‘This is a pain.’ And if another retailer does it better, you’ll decide to use them next time.

 

‘We achieved an £8m lift in conversion rates for just £50,000’

Our Digital Acceleration Programme identifies gaps in a company’s digital maturity and then we can then use individual initiatives to plug them.

A good example is the previously mentioned initiative for Dreams where we demonstrated a 19% increase in conversion rates. What’s cool is that all the work we do is measurable, down to the finest detail. So, we’re able to say: ‘Don’t just take our word for it – the proof is in the numbers’. Our customers tend to live or die by KPIs such as the conversion rate, average order value, numbers of sales, loyalty and satisfaction levels and those are all things that we can help deliver.

 

‘The consumer experience needs to be seamless, personal and at scale’

We aren’t the company that will develop someone’s digital strategy – we won’t tell them which markets they should be going after, or what new products they should be selling. But when a company knows where it wants to go, we’re the enablers. No matter how many customer touch-points there are, we help them make the consumer experience seamless, personal and at scale.

Another example is The Body Shop, with who we also work with. With well over 5 million customers globally, it’s impossible to think about and design an experience for each individual. But somehow, you have to make every single one of them feel loved, rewarded and as though that they are in a personal relationship. That’s the challenge – delivering a connected customer experience that is personalised, at scale and automated and that’s where we’re spending the most time with our customers.

 

‘Applying to be an SAP partner was nerve-wracking, like a job interview’

When we became an SAP partner in 2015, it was like starting again because we were a nobody to them – we had only one SAP customer. I remember sitting in the boardroom at their London offices being interviewed by the partner interview panel who were judging whether or not we were suitable to be a partner. They went out for 15 minutes to confer and I was so nervous, it felt like I was at a job interview. It was a great moment when they came back and said, ‘Sure, okay’. We worked hard to get on their radar and become the go-to partner for successful outcomes. The end result is the 2021 SAP Pinnacle Award for Customer Experience Partner of the year, which is a global recognition for the value that we bring our clients with SAP CX solutions.

 

‘People ask what it’s like to work with my brother?’

People are often surprised that I work with my brother and ask what’s it like? It used to be a little bit fiery because when we first started there was quite a bit of overlap in what we were doing and we were treading on each other’s toes. Back then, it was just me, Bran, Tim and a few guys and we’d all be doing the sales, I’d be doing some consulting and even a bit of graphic design. So, we’d clash and tempers would sometimes flare. What changed was when we split the business into three key departments and carved out distinct roles. Once we put those boundaries in place, everything calmed down. I have huge respect for what Bran does, as I hope he has for me. Now that we’re delivering demonstrably, we’re comfortable with each other’s capabilities and understand each other a lot better. Then there’s the trust – we’re both from the same mould, so have pretty much the same kind of values.

 

‘Being in it together helps’

It’s very difficult to disconnect when you’re so involved. Even on holiday, it’s rare to completely relax but what helps is being in a trio with Bran and Tim. We cover for each other and share any problems. There’s a constant stream of things that need to be dealt with, but we’re all in it together which has been a massive comfort over the years.

I go cycling at the weekends, which helps me to relax. Back in the 1980s people had Porsches and drug habits but it’s much healthier nowadays! I also love spending time with my family, especially my two daughters of 17 and 15 and my eight-year-old son.

 

‘My friends call me lucky’

One of my old friends called me lucky the other day. But it’s not luck, it’s a combination of hard work, sticking my neck out and following my nose. As we grow as a business, we’re breaking new ground almost every day. And when our financial year ends in September, we’ll be up 100% on last year, which is incredible.

 

Looking ahead to the next five years, our top three priorities as a business are to continue to deliver value to our customers in a changing world. As we expand our team from 200 to 500 people, my role is going to be about making this company hold together with the same values that have got us to where we are now, and I want to be a good leader who can make that happen. That’s my personal challenge – to work on that.

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