“If you want to do something big, you’re going to need help,” — CEO Q&A with Jack Williams of Selazar

By Business & Finance
06 July 2022
Pictured: Jack Williams, CEO, Selazar

Jack Williams is the CEO of Selazar, an eCommerce Fulfilment Specialist based in Northern Ireland. Jack was Nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year at the Digital DNA Awards and was shortlisted for Start-Up Entrepreneur of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2021.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role? 

At Selazar, we have rapidly evolved as a business, as founders and as technologists, to meet the needs of our expanding team. I had a vision of maybe 30 employees one day; as it stands this year, we are set to grow closer to 60 people.

I’m really enjoying the culture-building aspect of company life and I’m taking an active role in recruiting and safeguarding our most valuable asset — our people.

Our major focus will be to grow the business, and of course continue to develop our technology and refine our offering, making it even more customer-centric. We’ll keep building a truly global fulfilment service that will help our customers expand into new markets quickly.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO? 

Things like late night dispatch, multi-courier options and custom fulfilment capabilities at highly effective prices per region are a huge undertaking, and there are so many new partners to find. That’s where we are focusing now: it’s about building a truly one-stop-shop for eCommerce sellers in the UK and across the globe, by ensuring we get the best strategic partners in every region we operate in. Selazar’s reliable domestic and international shipping network already includes Yodel, UPS, Evri, and Royal Mail.

We will also continue building on the four pillars for alternative, eco-friendly ways that retailers can run their eCommerce business: eco packaging; waste reduction; intelligent routing and efficient returns processing.

It’s all about anticipating customers’ evolving needs, always keeping a pulse on the eCommerce market to ensure they have all the tools at their disposal to run and grow their business successfully.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

If you want to do something big, you’re going to need help, from great mentors to dedicated finance teams, and everything in between to ensure you find great people. Getting that support in the right places early on goes a long way; from having the best technology, to securing funding. We were ‘lucky’ in that finding and retaining the right staff, by fostering the right culture, was a priority from day one for us. 

Our team is driven by innovation and simplifying complex issues in the logistics industry. That’s the challenge, the inspiration and the motivation that drives me too as a founder – to keep creating human-centred solutions in a technological way. 

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward? 

The challenge is that most eCommerce fulfilment companies focus on single aspects over total service. By combining quality service with rapid deployment of new warehouses, we are focusing on offering a unique hybrid approach to fulfilment to solve all major eCommerce challenges for our clients. We give the control back to the retailer by offering an alternative to some of the largest eCommerce players as we allow clients to retain full control over their brand through the ordering and fulfilment process (from stock management and picking and packing, to delivery and returns).

Another challenge is that customers today expect rapid, accurate delivery at a time and location they have chosen. Many smaller e-commerce brands, without the operational bandwidth to offer the same service as big retailers, may struggle to manage such a complex network of operations without the right 3PL fulfilment partner. In fact, this is a leading cause of frustration with eCommerce.

Any eCommerce player looking to grow needs to ensure rapid picking and packing of customer orders with a very high degree of accuracy, as well as on-demand delivery and returns.

What new trends are emerging in your industry? 

Underpinned by the rise of ecommerce, fulfilment partners have a growing role to play in helping medium size eCommerce retailers and emerging brands address warehousing challenges to ensure uninterrupted high levels of service and growth. ​​Significant efforts to address the warehouse shortage are under way, with new orders for the building of warehouses worth £5.6bn in 2021. As the drive to increase warehouse capacity continues, it’s medium-sized retailers and emerging ecommerce brands that are likely to suffer the most, as they lack the size and scale to take full control of their warehouse operations. These businesses in particular need to be aware of the warehouse capacity issues across the UK and Europe and adopt innovative strategies that will ensure their warehousing needs are not only met but also add value to their business models. 

More sustainable approaches to packaging are also slowly but surely becoming a major trend in eCommerce – our tech allows the selection of packaging that reflects the dimensions of the actual products, as well as packaging preferences. Customers can also manage multiple orders for one customer or multiple orders for multiple customers simultaneously, ensuring the greatest level of packing and cost efficiency. This creates new possibilities for eCommerce brands and retailers, letting them design bespoke packaging experiences that reflect their brand identity while also caring for the environment. 

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

As the eCommerce boom continues across the UK and Europe, logistics infrastructure is coming under ever-increasing strain.  Effective returns management for eCommerce is still a relatively new concept that begs for innovation. It’s an area that hasn’t been adequately addressed. As we’ve seen recently, big retailers are starting to charge customers for online returns.

The question companies need to focus on is that if consumers find it more convenient to shop from home and receive packages there, they need to be able to return them in the exact same way.

This is the future of eCommerce returns. And, at the risk of sounding cliche, it’s always great to try and be the change you want to see. There is a cost-efficient and sustainable way to manage returns – that’s why we’ve launched a unique service called Return Robin to simplify the return process. 

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

Like every tech business nowadays we find that there are not enough developers to meet global demand, and that those who are available may lack the necessary development skills for popular frameworks.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis? 

We have been committed to taking a service approach to solve eCommerce retailers’ big problems, such as disrupted supply chains, constantly innovating in the face of adversity across all aspects of eCommerce fulfilment. For example, many well-funded organisations are holding more stock onsite, ordering larger volumes earlier and relying on fewer shipments to cut down on fluctuating global conditions – but not every organisation has that financial liquidity. Through strategic partnerships, Selazar plans to introduce new financial services, such as loans against stock to help facilitate larger orders and big marketing pushes.

How has Brexit affected you? 

With Brexit import and export regulations now in full effect, UK retailers are looking to the future and developing business strategies that will drive profitability in increasingly uncertain times.  We had to innovate and add on services to support our customers to help navigate a complex eCommerce landscape, and are properly supported when dealing with supply chain, warehousing issues, moving stock, import and export fees etc.

Emerging brands looking to expand beyond the UK need to develop clear, robust strategies that take into consideration the realities of Brexit but factor in ways to operate in the EU and globally that can offer new paths to growth.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector? 

As the eCommerce boom continues across the UK and Europe, logistics infrastructure is coming under ever-increasing strain. 

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed? 

Experimentation leads to success but of course, failure is part of the process. It’s how you respond to failure that’s key. The quicker you pick yourself up and dust yourself off, learn from it and move on, the better. What you learn from failure is more important than the fact something failed. So you will need to accept that you will eventually fail, in order to succeed – but fail fast and come back up even faster!

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business? 

Come up with an idea that solves a market-wide problem. Keep innovating and looking at how you can level the playing field and enable companies to grow with technology, and create a network and community to support them every step of the way. Final bit of advice would be to always be passionate about what you do, as it’s definitely infectious! People will gravitate towards you, respond to the energy that helps articulate and solve the problem they knew about but didn’t see the value proposition for.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year? 

We are already the UK’s most accurate end-to-end fulfilment service. We have taken an old-fashioned business, an industry that was traditionally very email and spreadsheet-driven, and overburdened with manual processes, and given it a shake-up. We are revolutionising the sector with unprecedented levels of technology, with far greater levels of intelligence and automation, especially in that final mile fulfilment area.

The pace at which eCommerce has evolved in recent years was accelerated as a result of changing customer demands and the pandemic. Cutting-edge fulfilment technology plays an integral role in ensuring rapid delivery to customers.

We are growing rapidly as a company to keep up with this pace, having announced a few months ago a $20 million growth investment to enhance our UK network and fund our expansion into Europe, the US, and Latin America. Beyond a unified single platform that digitalises all aspects of eCommerce fulfilment, we want to help eCommerce businesses tackle any challenge that may come their way as they scale.

What’s next for your company? 

The next stage of our journey is to expand internationally and add more valued services for our customers. Not only will our latest funding support the opening of eight new warehouses, but it will also allow us to further develop our proprietary fulfilment technology and support customers trading in the UK, US, Europe, and Latin America. Above all, this investment separates Selazar from other third-party logistics (3PL) providers as we aim to become a one-stop eCommerce fulfilment shop for retailers wanting to set up business in the US, Europe, and beyond.

So far, we’re able to have  orders picked and packed in 15 minutes, and offer a 99.9% pick and pack accuracy while radically improving on the industry standard of 2pm dispatch times, guaranteeing dispatches up until 7pm and as late as 10pm. In offering this flexibility, we provides a true next-day delivery option to our customers and we’re always looking to cut these times shorter.

Selazar is also focused on a customer-centric journey facilitated by a feature rich, market-leading product that meets the present needs of its customers and helps them to scale globally. Testament to that has been our recent launch of Return Robin to simplify the return process.

This is a neighbourhood-focused, eCommerce returns service, using a single van per area to reduce the cost of home collections and cut down on carbon emissions, allowing customers to easily manage and monitor multiple returns under one roof. We’d like to see the market turning to more efficient delivery and returns management – the means and technology are available and consumers are waiting!

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year? 

Selazar aims to be a ‘one stop shop’ for any ecommerce business looking to scale or expand operations globally. It is an eCommerce enabler, allowing businesses without much prior online experience to challenge big brand names with intelligent, automated and efficient fulfilment.