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Crafting Connections: Dubai-Based Tech Startup Getbee Is On A Mission To Humanize The E-Commerce Retail Sector By using Getbee's software, a retail or luxury brand can have its sales experts engage directly with consumers online, the way they would in a physical store, and have them guide the consumer from start to finish.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

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Thea Myhrvold, Founder, Getbee

Today, businesses in everything from food and fashion to education and entertainment have been seamlessly moulded into an online realm of choices that customers can skim through at their own pace. However, amid this rush to move to an online retail space, the need for human touch points in businesses has been heightened. Indeed, this particular observation has brought to the forefront some loopholes, old and new, of e-commerce. Those include online cart abandonment, difficulties with creating and maintaining customer loyalty online, as well as the massive reduction of a retail salesforce that would otherwise be present at a physical store.

Dubai-based software as a service (SaaS) company Getbee was founded by Thea Myhrvold to address these issues, among others, by focusing on one specific dynamic within digital dealings: the consumer's emotions. Now, all of these factors may seem unrelated at first, but as Myhrvold begins to explain the business model of her startup, the practicality behind this emotion-charged mission begins to slowly unravel. "There are a lot of tech companies that want to replace people with technology, whereas ours is the opposite- we want to connect people through technology," she says. "The COVID-19 crisis, more than ever, has shown us why that is important. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of startups that are using artificial intelligence and machine learning for good. I think that can replace the mundane and repetitive things people do. But those human touch points and moments- those are things that I don't think should be replaced. So, how can we use technology for good and connect people, and create meaningful and interesting connections? That is our mission."

Before understanding Getbee's operations, it is essential to understand why the concept of humanizing technology inspires this startup's overall business vision. For that, one perhaps needn't look further than the founder herself. With educational qualifications in international relations and economics, Myhrvold, who has also worked as a teacher at one point in time, admits that working in the technology sector wasn't something she especially aspired to do. "As a young woman back then, there weren't many female role models in tech either," she observes. "Now, it's becoming more visual, which is great, and that is why representation matters. But it wasn't until I was in the middle of my university studies when I found myself thinking, "I want to make a difference in the world, but how can I build something that is accessible to people?' And I realized the only way I could do that was through technology."

Image courtesy: Getbee

In the self-taught journey that followed, Myhrvold coded one of the first game-based educational apps for high school students, and she later went on to launch an online educational marketplace called TeachMeNow. Interestingly, Getbee was created using her first startup's software. "TeachMeNow was a marketplace, and we realized that the software that we use could be used as a service at Getbee," explains Myhrvold. "So, we repositioned the software such that anyone wanting to create an on-demand workforce could use the Getbee software across different industries. We are a white-label service provider, which means that every brand we work with has its own platform, but we are empowering those brands through our software!"

Getbee (the "bee" stands for "Bring Expertise Everywhere") was launched in 2018 to cater to three verticals -education, retail, and wellness- with an aim to help businesses find the right balance between using digital tools efficiently while also creating human connections using technology. With this concept at its core, Mhyrvold says that Getbee isn't necessarily just a B2B firm. "We are not an e-commerce marketplace, but a tech company," she explains. "We help the brands connect to their customers using our software, but how they connect to the customers, or how they position their services or products is completely up to the brands themselves. So, we're more B2B2C!" Within the education and wellness sectors, the Getbee software allows for educational institutions as well as counsellors, therapists, nutritionists and coaches to create on-demand classrooms and consultation sessions.

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But while Getbee's SaaS offering has catered well to these two verticals, and continues to do so, Myhrvold says that the startup's biggest focus is on "emotional purchases" within the retail and luxury sector. "Emotional purchases are those where you actually need to talk to a specialist or talk to someone before making the purchase," explains Myhrvold. "This can be everything that revolves around baby products, bridal, luxury items, pets, and cars. For example, if you're a mother for the first time, there is a whole universe of new products that you never even knew existed. So finding an expert for something like that, which is a completely different topic to the consumer, can make a big difference in the purchase experience. For us, it is about empathy, and how you make people feel."

In layman terms, this entails that, by using Getbee's software, a retail or luxury brand can have its sales experts engage directly with consumers online, the way they would in a physical store, and have them guide the consumer from start to finish- including helping them with creating an online basket in real time, or guiding them through to the final payment process. With this, it is easy to see how the tech startup intends to negate the issues of cart abandonment and build customer loyalty through its customer-centric approach. "Trust is the key element here," adds Myhrvold. "Emotional purchases are something that you spend time and effort on, not just money. If you want to buy an AED10,000 watch for someone, it is usually a gift for someone you care about. It is true that a lot of consumers shop online now at their own leisure, but if it is an emotional purchase, you need an expert. You don't want to talk to a chatbot!"

That last statement's truest reflection lies in how Getbee's software allows for a brand's sales employees to create their own online profiles, listing their expertise and background, which consumers can browse through before deciding on which expert they would like to consult. While physical retail stores have unfortunately created an environment where sales employees can be perceived to be ruining a customer's experience by offering incessant and often unwanted assistance; in an almost ironic way, Getbee's digital approach appears to humanize sales employees much more. With the creation of these profiles, not only can brands better display the expertise of their employees, it also gives customers the opportunity to reach out to the person they feel at ease with. Myhrvold says this is a win-win situation for both the brand and the consumer. "At a physical store, when someone comes up to help you, they might not be the right person you're looking for; you might want to talk to an expert," she adds. "But here you can actually see who's available, their expertise, and their background. It is also a way for brands to show leadership because a lot of brands invest heavily in training and investing in their people to make sure they carry the required expertise in their subject matter experts."

Image courtesy: Getbee

But while the increased focus towards building meaningful human connections is a welcome move in an overly digitized world, it may not necessarily be the road every employer or business leader wants to take. At the end of the day, business profitability is what will keep a brand running. This is why it is important to mention here that Getbee's business model doesn't appear to be choosing the empathetic road just for the sake of a building a favorable image. There is ample statistical data to prove the software's efficiency. To put things into perspective, it is important to look at cart abandonment and cart conversion rates across the e-commerce market. As of March 2021, the average global e-commerce conversion rate, across all industries, was 2.22% as per IRP Commerce. Another 2021 report by Annex Cloud shows that while the global cart abandonment rate is 75.52%, it is 76.1% in the Middle East. Myhrvold reveals here that Getbee's cart conversion rate is much higher than the industry average. "The average conversion rate on an e-commerce site is only 2-3%, but through us, our clients experience around 25%, with some even showing a 28.5% conversion rate in 2020," she says. "That speaks volumes, because the power is in the data! Not only are the conversion rates higher, people come back if they like the employee they are talking to, because they are building a relationship, and usually the average basket size is also higher, because they are trusting that they're getting the right product."

Myhrvold also very proudly remarks that Getbee's approach helps in creating more jobs within the retail sector. With this in mind, Getbee's approach provides some respite during anxious times. "We're very proud to say that we help retail brands in creating hybrid and flexible environments," adds Myhrvold. "Retail can be very brick and mortar, and was very dependent on being present physically, but people in-store were never incentivized to sell online. But there is also a shift in the mindset of the employer now. With COVID-19, when the doors closed, employers did not know how to use their human assets. There was a need to digitally reach out to the consumers, but it created a lot of uncertainty for the employer, because they couldn't track what was being said or sold, and it became very messy from a management perspective. Getbee's software allows for companies to still hire and create meaningful, diverse, and flexible workforces in a digital world."

The tech startup currently offers its software to enterprises in the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America, and with plans to expand further into the latter two markets, as well as a new launch within the maternity and baby products sector, Myhrvold is optimistic about what the future holds. "The need for personalization in consumer behaviour is changing. So, the personal touch has to be more of a pull effect, instead of a push effect. A big misconception and fear among people is that technology will replace them; but it is about how we can use technology to scale and grow. I truly believe business is about people, so we want to put people at the center of what we do, and then use tech to impact that."

Related: Riding The Wave: Zbooni Co-Founder And CEO Ramy Assaf Is Capitalizing On The Surge Of Digitization In The MENA Region

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

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