ShopBox brings AI into online shopping

Artificial intelligence is making its way into online shopping and an Irish start-up called ShopBox is leading the charge.

An Irish AI start-up called ShopBox could hold the keys to the future of digital commerce.

Shopbox AI is focused on bringing high end Artificial Intelligence to any size of online retailer in order to generate more revenue from online shoppers and compete in a highly competitive space.

“We’ve seen products that were previously slow to move suddenly flying out of our warehouse because Shopbox finds them for the shopper”

This is done through an easy to integrate AI product hyper-personalisation platform, already proven to work in over 50 online retailers.

“The basic issue online retail faces is extremely low margins driven by the ever increasing cost of ads,” explains ShopBox co-founder Alan Gormley.

“By ‘wrapping’ the store around the customer, Shopbox clients typically see a 3x increase in conversion.”

Transforming online shopping

Shopbox transforms any online store into one which adapts to the customer from the very first click.

After just one product view it starts to find interesting things, specific to each customer. It acts very much like a shop assistant, constantly giving customers ideas and helping them stumble upon products they would not otherwise have considered.

“We’ve seen products that were previously slow to move suddenly flying out of our warehouse because Shopbox finds them for the shopper,” said Mark Kean, director of Kean’s of Claremorris.

Shopbox has several unique aspects which are not available to retailers otherwise.

It works from just 1 click. Other’s tech requires a lot of customer interaction to start becoming intelligent. Shopbox just works.

It is 100% automated. Retailers are live with a few clicks and never need to touch the system.

It balances the needs of customers with the needs of retailers and merchandisers. We noticed existing solutions pushed product with no consideration for what is important to a retailer. Shopbox balances this to increase sales but manage other important aspects of the business such as long tail stock, variable margins, promotions etc.

Digital detail in retail

Shopbox AI was founded in 2020 by Alan Gormley (CEO) and Tariq Zaki (CTO) with a combined 35 years in the AI industry.

Both met in SAS Institute, the largest AI vendor globally ($4bn) where they both held EMEA leadership roles. They have since both held c-level positions in Irish start-ups – Alan as Chief Analytics Officer in Arvoia (Travel sector) and Tariq as CTO of Popertee.

They founded Shopbox AI because they saw a huge gap between most retailers (including very large ones) and the likes of Amazon.

Every retailer is struggling with putting the customer at the centre and they saw a huge opportunity to level the playing field in the face of major competition from giants like Amazon.

Supportive ecosystem

Gormley said that in general the start-up ecosystem is very good. “It can always be better and especially around areas like funding, where it is a small market. However the help, advice and encouragement we have received is truly amazing. The number of business leaders and entrepreneurs who have gone out of their way to help us, even as complete strangers, is something I never expected and we have benefited hugely from.

“I always say to others, just ask and you will be shocked at how much help people are willing to give. I would also call out Enterprise Ireland. Many others encouraged us to get as involved as soon as possible with them – it is excellent advice. The people we work with at Enterprise Ireland have been really proactive in figuring out what we need and how they can help.”

ShopBox was established to function as a fully remote business. As such productivity tools like Google Business Apps for meetings, collaboration and productivity, Slack for messaging and quick responses, Click Up for product development and project tracking, Hubspot for CRM are essential.

Words from the wise

Gormley said ShopBox is supported by some excellent private investors and will be looking to actively add more investors this year.

Reflecting on his start-up journey, Gormley says that one thing he would have done sooner is establish a Customer Success function within the business.

“In previous companies we saw it as a cost but now I think it is a fundamental part of our product. We have benefited enormously from it. As a discipline I think it is still evolving fast but I see it as core to the business. It is definitely not just about churn prevention but we see CS as core to product development, new product rollout, marketing etc. And as a founder, knowing customers are constantly engaged by good people, makes it a lot easier to sleep at night.

His advice to fellow founders is to talk to everyone and never be afraid to ask for help.

“The level and quality of advice and guidance you get will astound you. Secondly, divide and conquer. I have met founders who are not clear about each other’s roles. The CTO is in charge of product, not the CEO. The CEO needs to be out all the time, figuring out the market, building the network, finding partners etc. This can be difficult for domain experts, but you need to create the environment for your products to work.”

Main image at top: ShopBox founders Alan Gormley and Tariq Zaki

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.