I tell people that John Hogan and I met at a networking event in 2012 which neither of us should have been at! It was IBEC’s India Ireland Business Association (IIBA). We were both struggling a bit with our previous ventures, and we were looking hard for new business. I suppose the takeaway from this is, if you keep trying, something good will eventually come.
How It All Started
John had delivered a Business Intelligence (BI) solution to two pharmacy groups in Ireland with his previous company. They were getting good value from their solutions, but on premises solutions are costly and time consuming to deliver. Post-delivery, they are difficult for customers to support with limited IT resources. I had spent some of the previous years making investments in start-ups, from this I appreciated the compelling proposition Software as a Service (SaaS) companies are. I asked John if this is something he could do with the technology. After 2-3 weeks of research, John came back to me and confirmed it was possible. On this basis, we set up Real World Retail to deliver a BI cloud solution to retailers and commenced business from a small office in Dublin in January 2013. Along the way we changed the overall branding to Real World Analytics (RWA) and the two distinct businesses were named RWA Pharmacy and RWA Automotive.
Along the way we made many mistakes. One that springs to mind was one of our early customers was small pharmacy chain in the West of Ireland who shocked us when they turned off the solution after a year. When asked for the reason the customer said, “I don’t know how to use the system”. We responded, “it is simple to use, it has a graphical user interface with point and click, how is that so hard?”. He went on to tell us that he didn’t have the retail knowledge to manage his stock, put the buying processes in place and other similar issues. This was a lightbulb moment for us. From that point onwards, we set up a customer success function. This was led by Adele Curran who is now our COO for RWA Pharmacy. As you would expect, our customer success managers help with the technical issues, and they are the route to get product enhancements but their most important role is to help the customer make more money. When required they will help the customer implement best retail practices which often turn up in their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in head office and in the stores.
We launched the pharmacy product into the UK in 2016 and following an initial strong take up by groups, we raised funds to accelerate the product development. In 2018, in their wisdom, the NHS decided to reduce the financial support to pharmacies. The cuts got spread over the following 2.5 years, I called it “death by a thousand cuts”. The pharmacy chains lost confidence to invest in their businesses and our sales slowed.
Charting New Waters in Automotive Retail
Instead of just stressing about this, we went about developing the next solution for our cloud platform. We looked at several retail sectors and on the urging of Neil Murphy we had a look at automotive retail. Whilst the sales transaction value of the motor retail business is high the volumes are low so, it was hard to see how Big Data tools would help them. On further examination we learned that they have “wide data”, some dealerships have as many as 20 software systems which are required to run their highly complex business. Typically, dealer groups spent many hours per day pulling reports together to get on top of their business. Our platform was an ideal technical solution for them as it automated the report building, distributed them to where and when they are needed and gave them more time to work on the business rather than in spreadsheets. This time we acquire a great deal of the domain knowledge by hiring people from within the automotive business. Of course, the early customers played a huge part in building out the solution.
By 2020, the solution was well past it’s Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stage and during Covid we delivered it to a large OEM who owned part of their own retail network, and John Clark Motors Group in Scotland where they have over 30 rooftops. To date we have installed our solution in 28 of the top 150 dealers in the UK and our rate of growth is over 80% year on year.
Industry Recognition for our Innovation
We decided in September 2022 to enter the Motor Traders Awards (UK) with our latest development for used car resellers – we call it PriceSmart. The solution uses the dealer’s DMS data and Autotrader’s Accelerator data to manage the pricing of used vehicles. In addition to helping the dealer maximise the price they get for each vehicle, it also gives them control on the days to sell. For the multi rooftop dealer it tells them which location to put each vehicle in for the best results. We have just rolled out our newest iterative improvement to this product. It provides an accurate buying list for the buyers which helps at auction and on trade-ins.
At the MT Awards ceremony in London on the 23rd of November 2023 we were delighted to hear our name announced as the winner of the IT Innovation of the Year award.
We want to thank Motor Trader and the judges for giving us this opportunity, and our customers and partners for making this possible.
John and Conall started this journey, but it could only have been won with all the hard work by the whole team. We try to be excellent at everything we do; administration, finance, marketing, sales, development, delivery and customer success. We are only as strong as the weakest link and only strong links; this is what makes John and Conall proudest.
About RWA Automotive
RWA Automotive provides a cloud-based Business Intelligence (BI) solution that helps you become a complete data-driven dealer group. By bringing all your data into one place and delivering actionable insights to different levels in the business, everyone has the right information at the right time to do their job efficiently. The management will be presented with executive dashboards where they can drill down to the details for further investigation. Your managers in the outlets get reports such as DOCs delivered to them automatically so that they can action issues on the spot. The solution is designed to help you stay on top of your business with all the information you need at your fingertips.