Build Back Better: App For Happy Shoppers

Features Posted 12/05/21
The imposition of the first lockdown and the closure of non-essential shops focused Richard Johnson’s entrepreneurial mind to hone an online business idea he had been playing with.

Richard, pictured, realised he had to grasp the opportunity presented by the pandemic and complete plans to create an app bringing together independent high street businesses and potential customers.

With his co-founders Rayhan Perera, Charles Jepson and Mike Allen, Richard created MyStreet, the first tailor-made app to help smaller retailers reach potential customers across the UK, at a time when direct shopping was difficult or impossible.

Richard, the CEO of MyStreet, explains: “It started as a pre-pandemic idea, to allow conversations to start between shops and customers, creating a platform on which they could do business. It’s a unique e-commerce app which means independent retailers can sell their products online, while customers can engage in detailed discussions over what they want.”

MyStreet was launched for Apple devices in January and will be available on Android phones by the summer. It uses AI technology to create virtual shopfronts for retailers, tailored for customers’ preferences. It will, Richard predicts, “help small businesses adapt to changing consumer shopping habits and support their online sales strategy, at a time when the high street faces unprecedented challenges”.

Richard’s aim through this has been to make online buying more exciting and enjoyable, at both ends of the retail chain. “E-commerce is quite boring”, he admits, “I wanted to find something that would inspire people and, with my background in advertising and tech, I realised I could get the right people together to make it work.”

MyStreet is still recruiting stores to join the platform, but many independent shops in Richard’s hometown of Reigate in Surrey have already shown an interest. At the moment, most are in the fashion sector, but he hopes to branch into beauty, tech, food, art and collectables. Businesses are charged 5% commission for any sales made through the app.

Richard is under no illusion that the pandemic has “fundamentally changed” the way the world works, including how people shop. He estimates the UK has jumped forward “10 years in nine months” in the development and adoption of new tech systems and although he realises high streets will lose some of their “walk-in” custom, he believes the balance will be tipped with expanded business opportunities – including overseas.

He leans towards the camera during our online chat to share his dream of capturing overseas sales markets, including in the middle of the United States, where independent traders are desperate to widen their scope.

“We’ve already had an expression of interest from just such a retailer in the mid-west, where town centres are dying. Small businesses are ready to hook up with the rest of the world via online platforms,” Richard says with missionary zeal.

“Our app can help build brand loyalty for the smallest business from thousands of miles away. It’s just a question of matching the right retailer with the customer. We can be that bridge to keep everyone happy.”

Tweets from @SEBmagazine