2018 Honorees

Sarah Willcocks

Owner & CEO

“You have to have a personality and an angle, otherwise you're just another business.”

How did you start working in eCommerce?

I fell into eCommerce by chance, to be honest.

When I left university, there was an economic downturn in the UK and so, it took me quite a while to find work. I was offered a job in retail and a job at a Korean computer manufacturer. The job at the computer manufacturer paid slightly more, so I took that one. So, I started out selling memory to computer manufacturers 28 years ago and from there moved into selling software.

My “aha moment” was around 20 years ago when I got my first mobile phone, one of those huge brick-looking things and I thought “You know, if we can just get the internet on these things, that would be amazing”. When the first smart phones came out, I pretty quickly realized that everything was going to be done online, and that was when I was sure I wanted to continue with my career in eCommerce.

In 2004, my friend who founded Screenpages asked me to come on board and do business development, and in 2008 I did a management buyout with my husband. Now, I am the CEO.

What does your typical work day look like?

It’s totally varied. I work full-time, and I have a husband with early onset dementia as well as two young kids. I don’t have a typical 9:00 to 5:30 day. I currently work at very strange hours at different times of the day in different places, just to keep on top of everything.

And technology allows you to do that. I think it’s really important to allow people to have some flexibility around their working arrangements, so we try and promote that wherever we can without interrupting the customer service that we deliver. One of the benefits of this industry is actually that because we’re all connected all the time, we can work remotely or at odd hours if need be.

In my role as CEO, I’m always thinking about how I can grow the business both nationally and internationally. I’m doing most of the PR and marketing for the company, as well as speaking at public events. I’m sort of the face of the company.

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What do you love most about your job?

My background is in sales, so I’m commercial and what I really like is seeing our customers grow online. I like to work with the companies that are forward-thinking and interested in adopting new ideas and new trends online to try and differentiate themselves. We work really well with brands like that because we’re prepared to take risks and help businesses set themselves set themselves apart. I get lots of personal satisfaction when we see brands succeed online.

What advice would you give to others looking to work in the industry?

Don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there. There’s a lot of noise and if you read everyone’s marketing materials, it looks like we’re all doing the same thing. So you have to have a personality and an angle. Otherwise, you’re just another loyalty software, or you’re just another email marketing platform or you’re just another agency that builds websites.

What do you think is the next big development/trend that will define the industry?

I’d say there are two really: payment and fulfillment. People want to be able to pay
with whatever payment method they feel is best for them. So, if they use Apple Pay, they
want to use that all the time and they’re not interested in shopping if they can’t use Apple Pay. And for fulfillment some people might like everything delivered to their office, while others want it all delivered to the local shop. It’s about choice and offering that personal per sale experience and customer service.

And people don’t spend enough time thinking about that. It’s a competitive space so a lot of brands are thinking about “How do I get them to convert?” or “Get the order, get the order, get the order”. But actually, they’ll convert if they can pay and get their items delivered in the most convenient way for them.