A few months back I spoke with Flubit co-founder and CEO Bertie Stephens and his COO Steph Fiala about how they had managed to create one of the most enviable disruptive start-up cultures in London; quite an achievement when you consider the competition. We spoke about team bonding exercises, share options for every staff member, the importance of keeping staff informed about what is happening at the sharp end of the business, and the sheer hard work involved in tripling the size of the workforce in a little over 18 months.
Beating the best at their own game!
But the most exciting thing about working at Flubit I’d wager is that this is a company whose mission statement is all about breaking the hegemony of some of the largest, most profitable and most talked about companies in the world. Amazon, e-Bay, Rakuten, Tesco; the fact that Flubit has these behemoths in its sights must make Flubit a thrilling company to be a part of. It’s rare and totally refreshing to hear a Tech City start-up talking up its chances of taking on the big boys, and even rarer to find one that can back up its words with actions. Flubit are tring to change the way we think about ecommerce forever.
The story so far
BeFlubit is the culmination of years of work at the ecommerce coal face; it all began with a Eureka! moment. The realisation that it was possible, at the point of sale, to entice a customer away from an site like Amazon with the promise of “creating” them a better price via a network of participating affiliate merchants.
Next came the challenge of signing up the merchants themselves; explaining how the business model would allow them to make a sale they would have had almost no chance of making without Flubit’s intervention, at a price that, although discounted, still represented excellent business for them. After all, Flubit is delivering the sale to the merchant free of charge; no customer acquisition spend necessary!
Finally, having put the model together, tested it and proved that it could work, there was the small matter of raising the funds necessary to build a management team and staff strong enough and with the confidence to make the seemingly impossible happen; to take a sizeable chunk out of the market share of some of the most valuable companies in the world, without them even noticing! Amazon and e-Bay execs must have been left scratching their heads, wondering why their POS conversion stats were nose-diving.
What would you do with unlimited access to 20m discounted products?
Now Flubit are opening the floodgates and putting their technology in the hands of anybody who uses ecommerce on their website; a potential game-changer. Traditionally media companies and website owners have had to rely on affiliate programs and links in order to “sell” online and drive incremental revenue. This can be messy and discouraging for users and operators alike. BeFlubit empowers owners to control the inventory they display as well as the pricing model. Products can be displayed natively, whilst Flubit arranges the delivery of the goods as well as the customer care. And the kicker is that Flubit can provide up to 80% of all products sold in the UK, 60% of which are typically 8% cheaper than the prices that can be found on Amazon.
Imagine you are the author of a fitness blog and are looking to sell associated training products from your site. Or you are running a successful online store but are looking to widen your inventory in order to take it to the next level. Perhaps you are looking to reward or incentivise staff with access to relevant products at substantially discounted prices, or you are specialist vendor looking to establish a reputation as the go-to site for best prices on the latest recommended products. In every case, BeFlubit can provide the best-in-class solution.
The virtuous circle: benefits on both sides
One of the best things about BeFlubit is that the merchants supplying the goods are as grateful for the opportunity to sell through your site as you are! The thousands of UK merchants already integrated with Flubit can expect to see their sales increase exponentially as a direct result of the increased number of websites displaying their goods. Thanks to the technology Flubit has developed and the fact that they are sharing it with website owners and merchants for free, there is no downside. The software is a cinch to install; the upside being the increased visibility of the products and the higher percentage chance of website owners making a sale.
Bigger data, better analytics for the little guy!
Flubit’s development team are using real time data analytics to curate daily lists of more than 1,000 products which are distributed to participating website owners, showing which products are currently trending, which are available at heavily discounted prices and, of course, all of the items featured are available a cheaper price than Amazon! It’s a handy service when you have more than 20m products to choose from.
The Unicorn hunt is over?
If BeFlubit represents a huge push into uncharted territory, and putting the technology into the hands of anyone who cares to use it a serious leap of faith, above all it’s a classic piece of what the management team calls its “Flubilosophy”, the tenets of which can be found plastered all over the walls of their State of the art HQ in Wapping, overlooking the Thames.
It’s all about maintaining a bold strategic vision, refusing to buckle in the face of formidable opposition, and believing in the strength of the product and the idea. It’s not a philosophy that many companies would even attempt, let alone pull off, and that is probably just as well.
In the short time they have been in existence, however, Flubit have made enough progress to justify the hype. They always said they were aiming high; is it too soon to start start applying the term “unicorn”? If you can envisage a situation where ecommerce is conducted not through one monolithic, user un-friendly and de-localised site, but a million niche, boutique, and highly targeted ones, then you may well be looking at the future of ecommerce; it is almost unrecognisable from the way we do things now.