26/02/2010

By Bastien Duclaux the co-founder and CEO of Twenga

With a massive global recession that has affected businesses worldwide, from small startups to Fortune 100 companies, it’s been difficult over the last few years to say the least, especially for start-ups. However some companies have managed to make their business model work despite this and have even continued to profit year on year. One such company is price comparison site Twenga, which stands out as one of only a few ecommerce ventures to achieve global success over the past few years. This article gives some tips on how to achieve business success.

Q.) Can you explain what Twenga offers exactly?

Twenga is a shopping search engine, price comparison site and shopping guide and was founded in 2006 by myself, Bastien Duclaux and Cédric Anès. We created Twenga as a response to the industry’s unsatisfied need for an “open” shopping search engine and so we developed a disruptive technology that benefits both consumers and retailers.

Q.) What kind of success have you seen since you started up?

Twenga has experienced a record growth with expansion to 13 countries in 9 different languages in just 3 years and with a 500% increase in revenue over the past 12 months. So it’s been great so far.

Q.) Certainly some impressive figures, especially in such a competitive market as this. What would you say is the main factor that has helped Twenga achieve such exceptional growth[b/] despite the global economic crisis?

[b]Innovation, Innovation, Innovation! I would say our company’s strict dedication to innovation and high technical standards. We have made sure that more than 40 percent of the company is positioned in R&D (Research & Development) and we are continuously researching innovative solutions so we can offer to merchants and consumers the best performing shopping search engine, with functionality best adapted to their needs.

Q.) Can you give us an example of this?

One of the main elements of Twenga’s technology, an indexing robot named the ‘TwengaBot’. A dedicated and proprietary “crawl engine”, TwengaBotautomatically scans and analyzes the retail offerings of 200 million multilingual Web pages every day, constantly updating the information displayed on its sites and giving consumer the most comprehensive product catalogue available. In turn, this benefits retailers by providing them with a wide range of visitors.

Q.) What would you say are the other key reasons for your success, despite this recession and highly competitive environment? And what advice would you give to other businesses?

Diversification - it is important to be able to diversify and offer a value-added proposition to your customers. For example, the retailers that we work with benefit not only from the wide range of visitors that we direct through to them, but also from the additional market information we supply. Because Twenga is continually driven by the input of new information from the shopper (searches, queries, preferences, etc) we have been able help identify which products and industries are thriving based on preferences and purchase habits, providing insight into which will be more likely to survive the recession. Retailers see this as a huge value-add.

Innovation - it is also paramount to keep innovating and never rest on your laurels. We were proud that Twenga made history when we released the world’s first iPhone application to enable users to compare prices across nine countries.

Have a Unique Selling Point - having an exclusive offering, something that differentiates you from the competition is a must. We are unique in that we are the most comprehensive price comparison site out there, providing 10 times more product offers to the consumer than any other price comparison site.

Before Twenga, first-generation shopping search engines were “walled-garden” price comparison sites, meaning they were focused on price comparison, rather than on product search to match consumer needs. In addition, they only displayed the offers of those retailers with whom they had a commercial relationship. With Twenga, the challenge was to offer online shoppers the democracy of free and open choices, and to give them access to all retailers instead of just a few. The answer? We developed a technology that gathers shopping data from the entire web and displays it in one searchable interface — ultimately benefiting both retailers and consumers.

I believe it is our commitment to providing online consumers the democracy of free and open choices, as well as providing access to all retailers (not just the giants), along with the best prices available, that gives consumers an easy-to-use, completely objective and reliable experience. We let users to specify the attributes that interest them, such as brand, store, budget, size and memory.

We tried to make the process to search for a particular product as painless as possible, so we have added in many user-friendly features. For example, the site lists the “most popular products”, has a special area for promotions and special offers, and offers a separate “price drop” alert service that emails you if a retailer reduces the price of an identified item.

Q.) What other advice do you give?

Ultimately, like any business, the key to success — in any economic climate — is to identify a real need in the market and then create something to fill that hole.