You can look at a picture from far away and think you see one thing, only to change your mind when you’re standing right in front of it.
Former Well.ca CEO, Ali Asaria went into the e-commerce industry and looked at traditional retailers as the competition. After learning about the challenges retailers face, his view completely changed.
Traditional retail is an opportunity, not a threat.
“What’s happening is that this massive industry is in a period of upheaval,” says Asaria, one of Communitech’s board members. “Retailers themselves are having trouble adapting to this quick change of pace.
“So Tulip’s role in this space is to say where is shopping going in the next five, ten, twenty years, and how can we enable that for retailers.”
One of the largest industries in the world, retail accounts for $5 trillion in sales in North America. But it is in a state of disruption. In 2010, consumers in Canada spent more than $15 billion online.
New entrants such as Amazon are setting pace in the industry and changing the way in which consumers wish to shop.
Tulip Retail, the digital retail platform that powers the operations at Well.ca, enables traditional retailers to deliver the experiences that consumers are seeking.
“We think that the future of retail is centered around the term called omni channel – the idea that customers want to be able to interact with the store across many channels, including mobile, online and the physical store,” Asaria says.
Traditional retailers don’t have the culture or the competency to compete in this new, fast-changing playing field. They aren’t growing at the same pace as the new market entrants.
Tulip helps them to make that transition.
“Tulip is my opportunity to take everything that we learned in retail and combine it with everything that we know in mobile technology and build that next-generation company,” Asaria says.
Its comprehensive system provides a range of services from e-commerce and customer relationship management to warehousing.
Currently, Tulip is conducting pilot studies with large retailers that have $500 million to $1 billion in sales annually. The focus is to adapt legacy systems to the new platform, while gaining valuable consumer information.
For example, by providing the individual sales associates with tablets to check out customers, Tulip can show how that convenience provides a lift in sales.
“The challenge for a company like us is to just build credibility with retailers to say, ‘Hey we can support your $2 billion in sales without it crashing,’”Asaria says. “So I think that our job in the next couple of years is about establishing credibility and rock-solid stability.”
Asaria founded locally based Well.ca in 2008, before stepping down to pursue the opportunity that became Tulip. The Communitech experience “helped me build a network that I could never build myself,” says Asaria.
“For me to be able to contact important CEO’s in this community is now very easy because I have a way to make those connections, through Communitech,” says Asaria. “For a startup, the biggest challenge in the beginning is to rise above the pack, and show that, ‘Hey we’re for real and we’re going to be around for a while and we’re trying to solve a big problem.’ I think Communitech lends that credibility to a startup.”