As Retail Week Live nears, we interview some of the event’s most exciting speakers. This week, we spoke with Clare Jones, chief commercial officer at tech start-up what3words.
Founded in 2013, what3words is a geocoding system that uses a grid of the world made up of three metre by three metre squares. Each square is then given a unique address of three words (for example, the address of Retail Week’s office is ///shares.bubble.reach).
Clare Jones joined the team at what3words in 2015 and wants to ensure the concept has a positive impact on the world. Clare’s background is in the development and growth of social enterprises, including with London-based impact investment firm, ClearlySo. Her previous experiences include setting up 2nd Chance, which helps young Londoners into work, and working with NGOs in the UK and abroad.
Where did the concept for what3words come from?
Founder Chris Sheldrick used to work in the music industry, and often found it impossible to find locations and venues, for example stage door or festival entrances. He came up with the idea to combat this issue with poor addressing, creating a universal way of navigating the world.
How did you envisage what3words being used?
Originally, for music gigs! Also, those who grew up in the countryside will know that it could be difficult for drivers to find where to deliver parcels or for taxis to pick people up, so we realised that it could be used in any industry where people or things need to be moved.
What3words is now used in 170 countries – how does it work in different languages?
Each language covers the entire world’s land mass, meaning, for example, an English tourist in Japan could find an address using the English language, where equally a Japanese tourist in London could find somewhere using three Japanese words. We currently have 40 languages available and we’re working on more – next in the pipeline is Welsh.
How can what3words be used to overhaul delivery services?
It will drive the efficiency of the last mile. In today’s delivery services, where consumers want their purchases in their hands immediately, the minutes and seconds are becoming more important. Customers can specify a door, entrance way or gate to make things even simpler for the driver to know where to deliver.
How have you established relationships with retailers and what’s the full potential for it in retail?
It has the potential to be used like a normal address entered at the checkout. This requires a partnership between retailers and logistics companies, as the address will be passed onto the logistics service and turned into GPS coordinates for delivery. We’ve already worked with companies such as Pizza Hut and Domino’s, where the last mile really matters to get food to the customer fast.
Where do you see what3words in 10 years’ time?
As a global standard for addressing.
Listen to Clare’s keynote at Retail Week Live on March 26: ’Deliver to ///going.mimic.tides; what3words and the battle for the last mile’.
For more information about the event, which takes place on March 25-26, and to secure your tickets click here.