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‘Our Goal Is To Help Brands Manage And Grow Their 1P Sales’ Prasun Kumar, VP Engineering and Head of India Operations, CommerceIQ

CIQ Advertising provides retail aware advertising via a Share of Voice based approach that drives incremental sales and Dynamic optimizations that adapt to changing market conditions.

1. What is the story behind the launch of CommerceIQ? How did it all start?

The beginning is actually really interesting. The predecessor company, Boomerang Commerce ended up in near bankruptcy in 2017, when it emerged as CommerceIQ, representing a fast pivot. Today, we are the recognized industry leader in omnichannel commerce, supporting more than 2200 brands in creating winning e-commerce businesses. The company has grown by triple digits over the last two years and recently successfully closed its Series C funding round led by Insight Partners, with participation from previous investors.

What led to the near-death experience was what was dubbed “The Great Retail Apocalypse of 2017.” Unfortunately, quite a few of the companies that were part of this were Boomerang clients and the number one reason they were in this position was that they had vastly underestimated the impact that e-commerce would have on retail, and they ended up being left behind.

At Boomerang, we could see the writing on the wall and after a lot of self-reflection, a few key members of the team decided to stick it out and turn the ship around. We had a set of shared values and a sense of purpose, an almost missionary commitment. We wanted to build a company, one that would last, one we could be proud of.

In 2018, we began building out a platform that supported another aspect of e-commerce sales, one that we thought fit in well with the way the market was going. Rather than focusing on retailers, we started, in parallel with Boomerang’s main product, another project that focused on consumer brands such as Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s and Nestle. These large, established brands were also new to e-commerce and they also needed machine learning and automation to succeed. We saw some encouraging success. Within a year, this reinvented company was now called CommerceIQ earning their first million in ARR. Today, CommerceIQ is valued in the mid 9 figures and recently completed its Series C fundraising round led by Insight Partners.

2. How many customers/brands do you have on-board? What services are you offering and how are they niche?

CommerceIQ serves more than 2200 consumer brands with its e-commerce automation platform. The company’s offerings support the whole e-commerce flywheel, covering advertising, sales and operations.

CIQ Sales provides automations to reduce revenue leakage due to 3rd Party seller activity (duplicate offers, content and variant changes), retailer actions to mark products as unavailable and purchase orders with defects, along with accurate sales forecasts to inform inventory planning and automations to dispute retailer chargebacks and shortages related to fulfillment of purchase orders

CIQ Advertising provides retail aware advertising via a Share of Voice based approach that drives incremental sales and Dynamic optimizations that adapt to changing market conditions. Integrated Full-Funnel optimization across search and display advertising activates shoppers across their purchase journey.

3. What is the funding status and revenue model?

CommerceIQ recently closed its Series C fundraising round led by Insight Partners, a leading global venture capital and private equity firm investing in high-growth technology and software ScaleUp companies that are driving transformative change in their industries. Among their investments are Shopify, Twitter, Wix, Monday.com, Qualtrics and many other marquee names. Earlier investors – Trinity Ventures, Shasta Ventures, and Madrona Ventures – also participated in the round.

4. How does CommerceIQ stand out from other competitors who are already in business?

CommerceIQ leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive e-commerce in all aspects. Beginning with a single source of truth pulled from a variety of data sources, CommerceIQ extracts insights, generates recommendations and automates hitherto manual and siloed processes to keep up with the scale of e-commerce across the entire operation. Most other companies are limited to a functional area (marketing/advertising, or supply chain management or sales forecasting) or are agencies. In a world where more than 1 million decisions have to be made for a large brand to be successful, CommerceIQ supplants the processes honed for brick and mortar and drives greater share of voice, higher sales and more profits.

5. What sort of growth have you seen since inception?

The company has experienced triple-digit growth the last several years and we are on a trajectory to continue that path. The market is exploding and we are on the front lines of making it happen. It is really exciting.

6. Is e-commerce really the future in a post-pandemic world?

Absolutely. People who never shopped online before are doing so regularly. In fact, most analysts suggest that the pandemic accelerated e-commerce by 5-7 years and that a majority of the shift will be permanent.

7. You recently closed a Series C round led by Insight Partners. Are you accelerating hiring across India with these funds?

Yes, the company intends to significantly scale its India operations, with additional key hires in Software and Product Development, Data Science & Analytics, Product Operations and Support.

8. How will India play an instrumental role in your future growth?

Besides India being the development arm and major driver of innovation at CommerceIQ, our operations there will serve as a launching pad for our market entry in the region. Many global brands have operations in India and serve the Indian market, also seeing enormous growth in e-commerce, making the country a natural expansion opportunity for us.

9. What are your future expansion plans? Where do you see your startup going?

Our vision is to enable brands to attract and delight their shoppers on the digital shelf. Over the last two decades – and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic- consumers are increasingly engaging with and purchasing from brands on digital touchpoints. Brands, on the other hand, engage their consumers in digital commerce in two primary ways: they can either sell their goods directly to consumers through their own e-commerce portals (Direct-To-Consumer or D2C), or they can drive 1st-Party or 1P sales via retailer e-commerce sites like Amazon and Walmart, where they compete with 3rd-party sellers who can also resell some of their products. For enterprise brands, D2C makes up about 15% of their total e-commerce and 1P sales make up the remaining 85% of their total e-commerce sales . Our goal is to help brands manage and grow their 1P sales on all major retailer 2 e-commerce sites across the globe.

10. What was the impact of covid on the overall e-commerce industry? Could you share some interesting figures?

The pandemic accelerated e-commerce by 5 years (Source: IBM US Retail Index), though many of these gains were already happening before COVID-19 hit. Interesting to note however, is that not all sectors are benefiting in the same way long term. For example, grocery, discount stores and restaurants may see the most dramatic and long-lasting shift, while clothing is already back close to pre-pandemic levels. That said, it is estimated that 20%-30% of retail’s global digital shift in 2020 will be permanent.

11. How the Indian government is helping e-commerce brands to grow? What initiatives they have introduced to boost their growth?

It’s a work in progress. GST (Centralized goods and service tax) implementation will help simplify the tax structure for e-commerce operations. Further, there are multiple policies that include FDI and a new e-commerce policy that is being drafted. What is important is that the government is inviting feedback from e-commerce players as the policy takes shape. India is a rapidly growing consumer market as mobile phone penetration and cheaper mobile data has driven digital commerce penetration to smaller cities. Further, the ongoing pandemic has pushed people to adopt digital transactions even further and a friendly e-commerce policy will definitely boost the online market and push wider digital commerce adoption in India.

Source: Business World

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