Quorso in 2020: "A butterfly, not a maimed caterpillar".

Julian Mills, CEO Quorso
Julian Mills 23/12/2020·5 min read

Wow…what a year! A lifetime ago, back in late-March, we had it all planned out. Quorso had doubled in growth in Q1, we’d just raised a further $5 million to accelerate our US growth, and my wife, Katie, and I were packing boxes ahead of our move to the East Coast.

And then Covid struck. Over three days, several of our large corporate customers called and apologetically asked to pause their usage. As one explained: “I love using Quorso to help me manage and improve my stores…but I don’t think my stores are going to be open for the next three to six months.”

For our customers who did remain open, Quorso helped them pivot quickly and navigate the uncertainty, but within a week our usage had dropped 90%. That weekend I took my family for a bike ride to de-stress, and my six-year-old son went over his handlebars and broke his arm. That was a bad week.

Like many entrepreneurs, Dan and I – and the rest of our awesome team – have now survived a couple of shitty moments like this. The very next morning, as our exec team met bleary-eyed on Zoom, Dan asked a great question: “How can Quorso emerge from this crisis as a butterfly, not a maimed caterpillar?”

As our call continued, we all realized we were actually in a very lucky position. This awful pandemic, which is damaging the health and livelihoods of so many, will also change key aspects of business.

As a five-year-old startup/scaleup, we had the agility, experience, and firepower to adapt to the new world faster than most other businesses. We were a nippy go-kart with a full tank of gas, racing on a winding, slippery circuit against big, slow freight-trucks.

Back in April, it was very hard to predict what this new world would look like. We spent nearly a month interviewing 80 Retail Execs, Division Heads, Area Managers, and Store Leaders to get their input. What we heard, again and again, was a deep frustration with how they felt they had to run their stores. They uniformly complained that store management was hugely complicated, slow, impersonal, unrewarding, and imprecise, which was the last thing they needed right then.

But we also we heard a real hope that, if any good were to emerge from the pandemic, it would be progress towards managing stores in a way that felt more:

  • Agile – responding nimbly and resiliently to changing demands
  • Simple – refocusing on the customer and the top 3-4 actions to improve their visit
  • Human – recognizing colleagues’ efforts in a much more personal way

At Quorso, this input came at a critical inflection point. We realized with painful clarity that over the last 5 years, we’d built an app with a great user experience (UX), but a woeful human experience (HX?). We’d built a really useful and powerful app, but not an app that every retailer checks first thing every morning and which they will fight to have on their phone.

After intense discussions with our Board, we therefore decided to rebuild the entire ‘front end’ of our app. Our human-centric (vs user-centric) design brief was titled “Agile…Simple…Human”, and this was the opening paragraph:

Imagine if you could use your Fitbit or Apple Watch to run your store. Instead of being sent pages of reports every week, you just saw 3 next-best-actions (Missions) every day showing you how you could improve Sales, Waste, Shrink, Labor, CSAT, etc. And every day you could see how each Mission you took was making you a better retailer, your store faster growing and more profitable, and your team more motivated…

Over the summer the team worked with extraordinary resolve and collaboration, despite challenging times, and rebuilt our app to focus on this, including lightly gamifying it with a Space Missions theme. Along the way, we won multiple awards (e.g., Retail Tech Game-Changer of the Year), started working with 3 of the 50 largest retailers in the world, initiated partnerships with Microsoft, McKinsey, and many others. And our customers tell us they love the app.

And strikingly, every time a colleague completes a Mission in Quorso, they typically improve sales or other performance in that area by 19%! The potential impact of running stores in an agile, simple, and human way is just enormous.

In January, we want to get the word out to help more great retailers thrive in what, let’s face it, are still very difficult conditions. We want to show more stores how they too can run in an agile, simple, and human way. To that end, we are launching our own “Agile Store Management” program – a month-long initiative, to coincide with NRF, about how managing stores needs to, and can, change.

We will be coordinating a terrific agenda, packed with panel discussions, webinars, thought leadership articles, and interviews, including input from some of our friends and partners at retailers and organizations such as Microsoft, McKinsey, Alvarez & Marsal, REPL, and Omni Talk.

Take a look at the agenda and sign up for our events. And please, do follow Quorso on LinkedIn, so you can join the Agile Store Management movement.