Swaven was created in 2013 by Laurent Quatrefages and Sébastien Thiberge. Today, the company is celebrating its 10th anniversary!
Originally, the project was a response to the needs of multi-channel CPG brands. Faced with the rise of online shopping, they lacked visibility on consumers’ new paths to purchase at retailers. At that time, in France, the click-and-collect purchases from “Drive-through” shops were booming.
Laurent and Sébastien created first a price comparison solution called “Shoptimise”. The promise was simple: allow consumers to choose the best deals from multiple retailers to save money on their shopping cart, and at the same time provide brands with “insights” on the purchasing behavior of their online shoppers.
This promise determined the name “Swaven”, which is a contraction of “Swap, Save, in Heaven”.
Over time, to meet the many challenges of brands related to their digital transformation, Swaven has evolved into a B2B offer through multiple innovations.
The two founders have however always maintained one goal: Help multi-channel brands garner actionable shopper insights and turn digital challenges into commerce opportunities.
Today Swaven’s technology is integrated, in an immersive way, within brand content to accelerate and measure the consumer journey from all acquisition and communication channels to purchase of the brands’ products at online & offline retailers.
Deployed in more than 70 countries, Swaven’s SaaS platform processes 200 million products daily, in connection with more than 2000 distributors and more than 450+ customer brands.
How have things evolved during the 10 past years of Swaven?
Who better to tell us about the journey than Laurent Quatrefages, co-founder and CEO, himself?
Check our interview below:
How was Swaven created?
It was during the summer of 2012, at our former company with Sébastien, when a large multi-channel CPG group asked us to help them deal with the rise of online shopping. They used to entice consumers to buy their products through gondola heads, and classic trade marketing promotions. But the new generation of shoppers was going to buy their products online. It was very hard for them to promote their products and track consumer purchases from their online distributors.
This large group, at the time, published a cooking recipe site, without offering purchase options there. We offered them a service allowing them to add all the ingredients for each recipe directly into a shopping basket at retailers, in order to accelerate the customer journey. They liked the idea but did not want to implement the project immediately.
Finally, a year later, we created a B2C service, called “Shoptimise”, a site that allowed consumers to compare the price of their shopping basket made in store, with all other online distributors and Drive-through shops in France. However, we had anticipated a transition to a B2B offer, exploiting “Where To Buy” technology that could be deployed across the entire media mix of brands. It was from this moment that Swaven was born.
What have been the major commercial/digital developments in the market over the last 10 years?
When we launched Swaven, online shopping was booming in France and South Korea. Other countries quickly caught up, like the United States for example. As a pioneer in France, we had a technological advance that allowed us to geolocate multiple inventories very quickly and easily, and to retrieve product feeds using APIs or crawlers.
Digital and eCommerce have quickly become essential for brands that have had to adapt to new purchasing behaviors. And the Covid, in 2020, has completely swung this trend in favor of digital. The brands have drawn inspiration from each other and in particular from digitally native brands to create their eCommerce sites.
The retailer mix has become a strategic subject in recent years for brands to optimize the conversion funnel of their digital audience (in terms of purchases). This is THE big change for brands. Accustomed to orchestrating their digital campaigns with awareness objectives, they are switching to an approach of optimizing the generation of purchases at their distributors via their digital campaigns.
The rise in the application of the GDPR has accelerated the need to structure brands around data, the precision of targets, and budgetary arbitration.
Today, there is therefore a real questioning of how to increase the contribution of marketing and digital activities to the bottom line in business terms. Previously more focused on awareness, brand marketers and their agencies will have to develop new skills to manage the conversion funnel from end-to-end.
What have been Swaven’s greatest successes and challenges?
The biggest challenge (which all start-ups usually have) was to embark on a race in the open sea and to make it so that our boat not only held out in the middle of a storm but kept innovating to advance as quickly as possible. Today, we have a real racing machine that is winning many races all over the globe with international competitors.
We were lucky to be accompanied by a talented team, which has always been able to overcome difficulties and bad weather, to continue to accelerate. It is a real human adventure that creates bonds of rare intensity and great richness!
Together we managed to create a platform that is recognized worldwide by a large number of brands with a very positive image. To have reached this stage with more than 500 client brands, in 70 countries and more than 2000 connected distributors, is a great success!
This success is accompanied by structural profitability within a challenging economic context. In current times, it’s remarkable.
Another key factor in our success has been our development of a robust, highly automated platform that allows us to cope with strong growth while improving our gross margin.
Swaven is known and recognized for its advanced technology and its innovative solutions, for the capacity to create dynamic shopping links in a few clicks on all the digital media channels of brands, for tracking the shopper paths up to sales conversion, and for providing insights for optimization to boost brand sales with their distributors.
What were Swaven’s greatest innovations?
There are plenty.
- We have implemented a widget that we call “PoP” (Point of Purchase). It’s a solution that makes it possible to quickly accelerate consumer purchase paths, and to trace them, in an instantaneous and coherent way, on all digital channels.
- Our “Shop Tag”, was another major innovation. It allows ultra-simple and fast deployment of our PoPs in a few minutes, without any particular IT resources.
- And it responds to a real problem for our customers, which is to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO). Furthermore, it allows a simple and efficient way to manage, control and customize the PoP solution and its design on customers’ digital assets.
- Finally, the Self-Service that we recently implemented. This new solution allows making any post, story, or ad on social media shoppable in a snap. Moreover, brand marketers and their agencies can easily use it with autonomy, without having to involve IT teams.
and these are just a few examples…
What changes have you had to deal with in general?
They are numerous.
The first fundamental change for us was the orchestration of our “pivot”, moving from a B2C model to a B2B model, from Shoptimise to Swaven.
It was a major change for the implementation of our “Go to Market” strategy (we no longer spoke to the same people in the brand organizations), but also for our shareholders. In particular, because it was not on this new value proposition that they had joined the project in the first place. But it turned out to be the path to profitability.
Changing the mindset of your entire organization, to direct it toward the marketing of a SaaS platform, is complex. We had to change our commercial, marketing, and service distribution methods quickly, and be able to provide our employees with efficient tools, and choose whether to develop them internally or not, with a challenge to start making business immediately with our new offer.
We did it, thanks in particular to our formidable IT team. By the way, our CTO is also celebrating its 10th anniversary at Swaven this year!
Today, our platform is incredibly powerful, agile, and with great potential for growth. The latest achievement is our Self-Service offer. Its ease of use increases potential users, among brands, agencies, and even distributors, who in a few clicks can deploy our PoPs.
To sum up, Leonardo da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Reaching this stage is very difficult and yet we succeeded, it’s a source of great pride.
How do you see yourself and Swaven in 10 years?
In 10 years, I will continue entrepreneurship and innovation, and this is necessary as a team.
I hope that our solution will be an essential building block for brands, to master their multi-channel conversion funnel. The platform is extremely robust today, but there is still a lot more to do. For example, the retail media angle is to look at, which represents major opportunities for the future. I also hope it will be part of something even bigger in digital marketing.
10 years, and so many more adventures to come! 🚀💫