London, UK-based Bijou Commerce, a provider of a B2B SaaS platform for fashion retailers to monetize their mobile channels, recently raised £2m in seed funding. Following the close of the round, Managing Director Beth Wond answered our questions about the company, the product, the funding and future plans.
FinSMEs: Hi Beth, firstly can you tell us a bit more about you?
Beth: Previous to my role at Bijou in mCommerce, I was a Co-Founder of Made by Silk, a technology company that offered a complete end-to-end eCommerce service and technical retail solution for brands to communicate effectively online, engage with their own customers and provide exceptional standards of service.
As part of the BFC’s Digital Innovation Pillar Committee, I’ve also helped mentor international designer brands define and derive their digital propositions and benefit directly from multi-channel and global digital growth.
Before my career in eCommerce, I was one of the co-founders and Managing Director at Aigua Media, an online global publisher of titles including the fashion shopping site Osoyou.com and the influential high fashion and beauty style titles Catwalk Queen, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Kiss and Makeup.
Previous to this I launched a start-up lingerie line with the model Caprice that gained global distribution in leading stores and I have also run consumer marketing and press teams for a US and UK based e-commerce marketplace.
FinSMEs: Let’s talk about Bijou Commerce. How did the idea come about? What is the market opportunity here?
Beth: Despite sales through mobile accounting for over a half of all UK retail spend and 85% of consumers preferring mobile native apps only 2.3% of retailers believed their business to at the cutting edge of mCommerce. Coupled with the fact that retailers struggled to convert mobile traffic at the same level as desktop visitors, we looked at what user experience was required within a mobile app to maximise conversion rates for this user group.
Following a year of research, development and architectural design, 2015 saw the creation of Bijou Commerce and the defining and implementation of a native mCommerce platform and full service proposition for retailers. The unique UI and UX that Bijou Commerce and machine data learning that Bijou implements converts has been proven to convert shoppers at a higher rate than traditional mweb offerings and provides unprecedented data gathering for retail insights.
As Bijou Commerce overcomes the challenges to retailers with this rapid advancement of the mobile sales channel. This is exactly where our unique market opportunity lies – the intersection of omni-channel marketing, fashion tech and the explosive growth of mobile.
FinSMEs: How does it work?
Beth: As mobile apps are becoming an increasingly integral part of the omni-channel retail requirement, Bijou Commerce has produced a unique data driven single image browsing that provides unparalleled data access, that’s supported on a platform that can create cost effective, quick to market, customised native apps for both iOS and Android operating systems to leading global retailers with an on-going service solution for regular updates and upgrades.
Bijou Commerce has created a leading mCommerce platform that provides the opportunity to uniquely personalise retailer’s individual mobile and omni-channel customer experience. Addressing the need for full retail synchronisation, beacon technology, payment integration, live inventory and order processing, Bijou Commerce ensures a seamless branded shopping experience that engages customers, drives personalisation and significantly increases mobile conversion rates.
FinSMEs: Where are you in terms of growth right now?
Beth: Bijou’s proprietary platform has already been tested and benchmarked through its open test app, “The Edit”, which was launched in February 2015 to validate the user experience. 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.
FinSMEs: You just raised £2m in funding. How are you using the funds?
Beth: We will use the funds to evolve our features and product offering to clients, adding modular bolt-ons to match retail technology advances such as bluetooth and wifi beacons.
It will also automate client onboarding with direct API feeds, front end customization, powerful personalisation and automatic copy production – cutting the costs of delivery dramatically. The company will also move to make its platform code open source, providing the ability for third party developers to build new functionality and sell it through a platform marketplace.
FinSMEs: Future plans?
Beth: Future plans include expanding our product offering and forging new partnerships with even more exciting retailers in the fashion industry, offering a mobile arm to their existing sales funnel. We aim at further developing the following features that make the BIjou platform so special:
A unique “Tinder Swipe” UI-UX – Most retailers’ apps and mobile sites put anywhere between 4 and 12 products on a single screen for the user to pick out. Bijou’s UI shows the user just one product at a time, but makes browsing through them incredibly simple. This means that your users see more product per visit.
Unparalleled Integration – Bijou offers full integration in the back end and a scalable API with automatic updates. It is IOS and Android compatible and works with most eCommerce software providing a mobile arm to marketers.
Real time Insights – By forcing users to express an opinion on every single product, 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.
Deep Personalisation – The collected data is used to personalise the user’s experience, making individual product recommendations based on the individual user’s nuanced tastes.
Better Conversion Rates – 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 wishlist or a shopping bag, which, when combined with an optimised checkout process, delivers conversion rates 3-5 x better than typical mobile site benchmarks.
Further strengthening the development and distribution of our product offering around these 6 pillars will help us spearhead growth in the years to come.
These are exciting times for the fashion industry and we are certainly very proud to be taking part in the transformation of the backend technology supporting the sales, engagement, feedback and omni-channel marketing of major fashion retailers globally.