In the second of my Private Equity Manager Spotlight series, I spoke with Georgina Nelson, the CEO and Founder of TruRating, a growth company Sandaire has invested in on behalf of its clients. TruRating’s technology provides real-time consumer feedback data to multi-site and multi-channel retailers. The Company is also exploring other applications of its technology in fields such as polling. Through the team’s hard work, TruRating has responded to the challenges faced through the Covid crisis and she provides an insight below:
What has been your business’ experience of the Covid crisis?
As a solution to the retail and hospitality markets, we were pretty significantly hit by lockdown restrictions across our UK, North American and Australian markets. It meant 95% of our ‘live’ stores closed their doors and stopped collecting ratings. It also meant that the merchants we had been working with closely towards ‘go-live’ had to postpone those plans. Lockdown meant we needed to take stock of where the world might head in a post Covid world – it meant ‘planning for the worst, hoping for the best’. We therefore drove a series of initiatives under the title ‘New TruChapters’. It meant focusing the team’s efforts on projects that responded to the new challenges we were seeing and aimed to make us stronger in a post Covid world. In particular it meant prioritising our focus on our digital solutions, fast forwarding efforts around ‘future payment methods’ and advancing our polling capabilities to make our insights available and relevant to a wider group of stakeholders who were interested in how consumer behaviours and perceptions were changing during such uncertain times.
What has been your business’ greatest achievement during the Covid crisis?
The team has been fantastic in stepping up to re-prioritise efforts and ensure our relevance through the lockdown period. An example of this would be that we knew that we had unrivalled access to huge volumes of real time customer sentiment data, and merchants and even governments were struggling to understand the changing consumer landscape. We polled over 150,000 consumers via our TruRating Online tool in just a couple of weeks to understand appetite for going back into stores, opinions on the speed of lock-down lifting, and whether the government should be more concerned for health v. the economy. Whilst always anonymous, we were able to link the responses down to the State / county so merchants could plan their re-opening strategy and the Australian government could understand the differences between rural and metropolitan areas. Providing value to our partners and prospects during this time has been invaluable, and also testing the market for our solution outside our usual customer base.
What Government measures have you exploited during the Covid crisis?
We were very clear that we didn’t want to furlough any of the team given how much progress we knew we could make during lockdown and the negative impact we felt furlough would have on effected team members. Given the significant impact on our Q2 revenue plans though we did access payroll support packages where relevant in the US and Australia – as a side note it’s interesting that the support packages in other markets were more relevant to a business in our situation than in the UK.
What do you think will be a long term consequence of Covid on your business?
With the response we’ve had from merchants as lockdown restrictions have eased, we are increasingly confident that we’re coming out of this period ‘stronger than ever’. It has allowed us to accelerate plans which were always in our medium term goals and set us up to be the full package in an increasing multi-channel retail world. The period has also further emphasised to us and our merchant contacts the critical nature of our mass, real-time, representative data. We provide the pulse of how a retailer is performing and having that store level, up to the minute, view of whether initiatives – such as safety measures – are being executed well showcases our unique value. As an example, one CEO of a US retailer was briefed that 100,000 customers had rated how safe they felt instore in just 3 days. Overall the response was extremely positive with 94% ‘feeling safe’. Our data showed though that the 6% who didn’t, spent significantly less and purchased fewer items and that in lower performing stores only 70-80% of customers felt safe. This data allowed them to take immediate action, customer perceptions improved within a week and spend increased accordingly.
In June we ‘switched on’ TruRating in 1,000 new stores – and signed a contract with our biggest merchant yet – with 6,000 locations in North America.
What changes in your life during the Covid crisis will be permanent?
I’m not sure too much has changed – such an intense period has mostly reinforced what we already knew – that creativity, flexibility and a huge amount of graft and resilience are key to us reaching our goals (which remain as ambitious as ever!).