E-commerce platform Storbie has launched its online sales and inventory management product aimed at the New Zealand veterinary industry.

The company builds consumer-facing retail websites on behalf of its customers, including sourcing accurate product images and descriptions, a process many small businesses find overwhelming or do not have time for.

Until now Storbie’s work was primarily with pharmacies in Australia and NZ, but it is branching out.

The Wellington start-up has partnered with wholesale distributor SVS Veterinary Supplies and the New Zealand Veterinary Association, with major vet suppliers Masterpet, Royal Canin and Hill Pet Nutrition making their inventories available.

After being approached by these suppliers and SVS following NZ’s first lockdown, Storbie went to the NZVA to help spread the word to veterinary businesses.

Storbie raised $1.5 million in October to help expand its technology and service to pharmacies in Australia. In 2020 it recorded a 200 percent annual increase in new website builds as the pandemic drove demand, resulting in 112 percent annual growth.

It currently has 371 pharmacy sites live, with 236 in NZ and 135 in Australia, with customer demand driven by people having to shop online due to the pandemic and the lasting changes in consumer behaviour.

Kevin Bryant, chief executive of the NZVA, said Storbie’s extra service made it stand out compared to rivals.

“There are lots of e-commerce solutions out there but Storbie has gone a step further and has been able to link up to the supply chain,” he told BusinessDesk.

“They’re able to demonstrate an understanding of how the profession operates and so they’re able to actually have a more tailored solution. It’s something that is beyond NZVA’s capabilities to set up and run ourselves.”

Vetting process

Storbie chief executive Shane Bartle told BusinessDesk the company’s solution is attractive to the veterinary industry because it goes beyond just providing technology.

“All the boxes were ticked. It’s an industry that has a complex supply chain, and that supply chain is wanting to step in and work with us on all the non-technology parts of it, which is what we need to make it work.”

The first Storbie-run veterinary site went live at the end of last year, with three currently up and running. Bartle said the target is to have fifty such sites live by the end of 2021.

He explained the website construction is similar to the pharmacy industry, but the sheer size and weight of common vet products creates some major differences in fulfilling orders.

“One of the key differences is the size of the actual packages that need to be sent if it’s an e-commerce delivery, such as 20 kilogram bags. That creates a specific challenge where it’s often not cost effective for the individual veterinary practices to be shipping it out themselves, it’s better for them to be shipping from the distributors.”

He said having SVS as a partner is vital to helping this system run efficiently, and the time Storbie’s service gives back to small businesses is where the true value lies.

“It’s just as much about the veterinary practice being able to be discovered by customers, and those customers understanding what they do and what they currently have available.”

NZVA’s Bryant said the industry won’t go back to pre-covid practices, so small veterinary businesses must invest in e-commerce.

“When Storbie came along with a solution that would take away all of the problems of people trying to figure it out and set it up themselves and came up with a solution that was simple to install and operate, we thought it’s got to be a good thing for our members … it was a no-brainer.”

He added there is a “low break-even” for most small businesses who can expect to recoup setup costs after opening new online sales channels to consumers.