Name: Olly Cooper
Date Launched: January 2015
Number of employees: 13: six in London, seven in Mumbai (and growing)
What does your business do?
Bijou Commerce is a B2B SaaS platform that delivers native mobile app solutions on iOS and Android for fashion brands in a way that gets the most out of e-commerce.
Most retailers’ apps and mobile sites put anywhere between four and 12 products on a single screen for the user to pick out. The platform uses a unique “Tinder Swipe” UI-UX, which shows users just one product at a time, so that users see more products per visit.
By forcing users to express an opinion on every single product, swiping right or left, the Bijou Commerce platform generates an approval rating for every item. Retailers can use this real-time data on disliked products to enable early action on stock levels and re-ordering.
The collected data is used to personalise the user’s experience, using complex algorithms individual product recommendations can be based on the individual user’s nuanced tastes.
A native app provides numerous benefits for both the retailers and the customer – starting with an increased conversion rate. The simple, clear swiping mechanics quickly populate a wish-list or a shopping bag, which, when combined with an optimised checkout process, delivers conversion rates 3-5 x better than typical mobile site benchmarks.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We trialled the UX / UI with a fashion marketplace app called the EDIT. Immediately we saw conversion data three times higher than we knew retailers were currently achieving form their mWeb channels. It was clear that we were looking at an incredible B2B opportunity in the fashion retail space.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Despite sales through mobile accounting for over a half of all UK retail spend and 85 per cent of consumers preferring mobile native apps, only 2.3 per cent of retailers believe their business is at the cutting edge of mCommerce. Bijou Commerce overcomes the challenges to retailers with this rapid advancement of the mobile sales channel.
Why did you want to become an entrepreneur?
I became entrepreneur to bring ideas to life. It’s the creativity behind it all that is so attractive. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing one’s own idea become a real business until it gets profitable. Looking back, I joined the mobile venture builder Fuse after a career managing marketing teams in academic and professional publishing. I have experience planning and executing campaigns across the marketing mix, as well as shaping and leading teams to do the same, as well as two exciting and challenging years of startup and early stage experience in Fuse.
How did you raise funding, and why?
I believe in performance-based funding from leading venture capitalists, business angels and accelerators. That gives you both the network and the support early stage startups need. Our key investor is Blenheim Chalcot – we received smaller, ongoing investment tranches totalling £2 million – this amount will take us to October 2016 when we expect to break even. The first MVP was obviously completed with a fraction of that.
Describe your business model in brief
Bijou Commerce drives revenue through a SaaS model; clients enter two-year contracted engagements, paying a small development charge, a minimal monthly service charge, and a performance-based incentive bonus linked to the increase in conversion rate delivered.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? Patience to roll out a product that will meet the growing needs of your customer base knowing it’s still not perfect – working on an MVP and having an idea that you know will have a big impact but needing more time to build it.
What was your first big milestone and when did you cross it?
Getting our first client on board last year and a number of key partnerships lined up for the forthcoming future. To date, fifteen leading UK retailers and publishers in the fashion and beauty sector have already agreed to work with Bijou Commerce, with more than 300 retailers in the active pipeline for 2016. Clients include 3INA an exciting new make-up brand (Mario Testino was the brand director) with plans to expand into 68 countries. We are also working with Nobody’s Child, Luke 1977 and have worked with Hackett London. Many more clients we are currently working with have binding contracts under NDA and we cannot reveal more information on them just yet…!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Stay focused and do what you do for the right reasons.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
In the long term, we want to be able to create a product that solves a real problem in the market and support the pain points of businesses to the ultimate benefit of their customers. As the Modular Framework of the platform is now an effective and efficient way for retailers to provide mobile apps for their most loyal customers, we are working with clients to continue to innovate. As omni-channel requirements and the need for personalisation grows, we are set up with machine learning tools and fully synchronised backend systems to support retailers in these areas. We continue to see ourselves as a solutions driven company at the cutting edge of innovation where we can continue to evolve and drive forward new technologies. We are also looking at exploring new markets for localised retailers and UK brands wishing to launch in new markets. The data we can collate for them will offer valuable insights into the likes and dislikes with new territories.