Q&A: Andre Brown, Founder and CEO, Advanced Commerce
Andre is the former CEO of Attraqt Group PLC, a company that he co-founded in 2003. During his time there, he grew the business to become the major player in the European market with more than 200 retail clients. In 2014, the company listed on AIM (London Stock Market), and in 2016 he led the acquisition of their largest competitor, Fredhopper. He left in 2018 to start work on a new software company, Advanced Commerce, which they announced on 5th October this year.
What does your company do? / What is your USP?
Advanced Commerce provides a revolutionary new merchandising platform, GrapheneHCTM which has been designed to provide retailers with all the tools they need to merchandise their online sites effectively.
GrapheneHC includes many new innovative features packaged within an easy to use, intuitive interface, and we expect it to significantly outperform many of the existing SaaS suppliers in terms of Speed, Flexibility, Functionality, and Price.
One of the stand-out features is speed. The site performance with GrapheneHC is blisteringly fast, but without having to make any of the usual compromises to get that level of performance.
What’s special about the platform and your approach?
The company’s vision is to bring Enterprise-level merchandising to the small and mid-tier retailer, who I think are poorly-served for merchandising technology at the moment.
GrapheneHC contains a breadth of functionality unmatched by many other vendors. It combines Enterprise-level merchandising with start-up ease of use and contains some unique features such as Merchandising Concepts, Custom Ranges, and Auto-Merchandiser. It is very comprehensive and we fully expect it to become the gold standard for merchandising.
We use rolling monthly service fees, which makes GrapheneHC a cost-effective solution. There are no set-up costs or long contracts, so retailers can start using it immediately with low risk.
What advantage does it add?
GrapheneHC is built on a Headless Commerce framework, which makes it easier to integrate it with other software technologies and eCommerce platforms.
One great advantage GrapheneHC provides is speed. Site speed is an issue for retailers, as it affects conversion rates and Google rankings, as well as affecting the mobile experience. GrapheneHC has been created with “speed by design” principles at its core, so you get exceptional performance but without any of the usual compromises on functionality. It is incredibly fast, which provides retailers with a significant performance advantage, especially on mobile devices.
What does a product/service implementation look like and how do you measure success?
We are targeting the small to mid-tier retailer, who is probably running on either the Magento, Shopify, or Big Commerce eCommerce platforms, or those who have an in-house developed platform.
A typical implementation will use our APIs for both data and content integration – it’s been designed to be a quick and easy process.
Success is measured both in terms of how easy it is to deploy and what commercial gains does it provide for the retailer – typically this will be increased online revenue through higher conversion rates, higher average order value, and lower returns and cancelled orders.
How are retailers using your systems to gain a competitive advantage and what does best practice look like?
The competitive advantage comes from precisely controlling the product sequencing throughout the site, including on PLP (category pages) and SERP (site search pages).
The reason this is so important to retailers is down to the high bounce rates that many retail sites suffer from, which means that their visitors are only viewing the first few pages of the site – and therefore seeing just a fraction of what’s available from the online store.
This makes the decisions that retailers take about product sequencing, absolutely critical. GrapheneHC provides retailers with precise control over the product sequencing so that they can tailor exactly what they want to display to whom and when.
Are there other companies you partner with?
As a start-up, we have only just started the partnership process. So far, we are partnered with two digital agencies in the US and have an OEM agreement with a software firm.
We have started a partner program in the UK aimed at digital agencies and are also looking to partner with several UK tech businesses.
What challenges are retailers facing in 2020? What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2021
To say that UK retail is going through a rough time is an obvious understatement. Even before the Covid-19 crisis struck, online retailers were having to work hard to stay competitive. Covid has ramped up the pressure on this. The big challenge will be surviving the next 6-9 months whilst the world waits for an effective vaccine and/or for the virus to burn itself out – neither of which may happen!
How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
Covid-19 has brought eCommerce to the fore. It has forced people, who previously may have not been big online shoppers, to go online for food deliveries and other essentials during lock-down.
The stats for online activity show a dramatic increase in online sales in many, but not all sectors – the big winners have included fresh food, fitness, and anything to do with the home or garden. Much of this changed consumer behaviour, may well become a permanent feature.
This has helped to make the online world increasingly more competitive, with both new market entrants and many of the existing retailers upping their online game – and that’s what our merchandising platform addresses, it helps retailers to compete online.
What is on the horizon for you as a company?
We have a full development roadmap with many exciting new features. On the commercial front, we’re busy scaling up the business and expect to become a fast-growing SaaS business servicing many hundreds of clients.
Any final thoughts?
This is my second start-up. I enjoy innovation in software, so wanted to stay in this sector.
I have had a lot of time to reflect on what worked well in my previous business, what didn’t work so well, and what would I do differently next time. If you do something a second time around, you tend to do it much better and faster and I’m proud of what we have achieved in developing our new platform.
To find out how Advanced Commerce can help your retail operation, click here.
Advanced Commerce, 20 North Audley Street, London W1K 6LX
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