iAdvize is growing globally on the back of demand for new communication channels between retailers and their customers.
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Since it founded in 2010, live chat business iAdvize has grown on average 200% each year and opened offices in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. Founder Julien Hervouet explains how the business achieved such lightening success.
Let's hear about your business
iAdvize is a conversational commerce platform which helps businesses selling online to engage with their customers through live chat – via their website, social media platforms or messaging applications like WhatsApp.
Why did you think it would work?
Jonathan Guéron and I both worked for ZLIO (a portal to create online shops) when we had the idea of creating iAdvize.
We were confident there would be demand for the service as our experience was consistently highlighting common trends and issues such as, increased competition between ecommerce sites to provide online customer service, and connected customers wanting immediate response meaning that this service needed to be in real-time.
How has the business evolved?
iAdvize was founded in 2010 in France. From the beginning, we were supported by Kima Ventures and four Business Angels – Oleg Tscheltzoff, Jeremie Berrebi, David and Jean-Michel Sokol.
With an average annual growth of 200% since its creation, iAdvize raised one million euros in 2012 from the investment fund, Alven Capital.
The company opened offices in Germany, Spain and the UK.
In May 2015, iAdvize announced the acquisition of the start-up Bringr, specialising in social media monitoring. iAdvize then became a real-time customer engagement platform.
In September 2015, we raised €14 million from Iris Capital, Bpifrance and Alven Capital. The company now employs more than 170 people across France, Germany, Spain and the UK.
iAdvize is now a European leader in online customer service with more than 2,500 websites worldwide using the platform across all sectors. Clients include House of Fraser, Interflora, La Redoute, Europcar, Boucheron, and Chopard.
iAdvize staff: the business has grown 200% each year on average since launch
Is this a buoyant market for business?
Online customer service is a very competitive market. It’s dominated currently by generalist online tech operators, both smaller specialist service providers and contact centres.
iAdvize is the first full stack platform to provide companies with a technological solution which detects messaging contact opportunities everywhere online and utilises a pool of brand experts available 24/7 to answer customer questions in real-time.
Mobile and messaging apps are a big opportunity for us. As customers become increasingly connected and use various channels to shop, at any time, from anywhere retailers need to be able to assist these consumers with their path to purchase and be on hand to answer any questions in real-time, should they arise.
This can be achieved through the balanced mix of both chatbot use and human expertise to create authentic customer service around the clock.
Have you experienced problems - if so how have you overcome them?
We launched in Europe last year and it took a long time to recruit the right people and scale our offices accordingly. But now we are successfully operating in these new markets, we are constantly innovating our product to align with customer expectations and needs.
Last year, for example, we launched ibbü, an on-demand pool of brand experts who support customers during evenings, weekends and complement agents during peak times. These independent experts help our customers generate 10% additional revenue and enable consumers to receive the genuine advice they are looking for.
How have you marketed the business?
During our launch in 2010, we wanted to confirm the market interest and so launched a pilot project with FNAC.
Our BETA test gathered feedback from 600 companies which helped us to finalise our product and by validating the interest of the market, we were then able to raise funding to start the sales phase.
We also maximised our great customer success stories to generate both credibility and interest.
The iAdvize live feed
What is the hardest thing about running your own business and what makes it fulfilling?
One of the hardest things about running a business is that you are always connected. As much as you would like to disconnect, the responsibility you have towards your employees and investors allows for very little time off.
However, it is always fulfilling to see how much we’ve grown as a company, both in terms of size and profitability, and internal friendships. Everyone is accountable and gives more than 100% on the job! We also try to enjoy things together by organising Christmas parties, seminars and family events.
We also hold our annual ‘Ship It’ days when employees are encouraged to partner and work on their own projects for two days. This year, for example, we are supporting local communities through CSR projects under our Genius Care programme.
What sets your business apart from the rest?
iAdvize not only offers a full-stack platform, from software development to customer service training, but we also work closely with brands to strengthen their customer engagement strategies.
In today’s ecommerce marketplace it is vital that retailers understand their audience and match their expectations and needs through a seamless brand service, we help companies to consistently achieve this.
How have you developed your people and kept them engaged?
We carefully select our employees to make sure they adhere to our company’s culture and values. Our corporate values speak to our French roots but also resonate with the international team.
To ensure everyone is aligned with the business we hold monthly meetings which are attended by all employees – at every level – and feedback is welcome from the local and international offices.
We also invest in the development of the company, for example, each employee has 150 euros per year to sponsor a company initiative.
We also encourage a culture of collaboration with two corporate seminars per year where all employees meet and discuss the direction of the company. And on a personal level, my door is always open to employees wishing to discuss their role or the direction of the company.
Team building is a big part of the business
How do you rate support for growing businesses and why?
We are very much involved in the French tech ecosystems like Nantes Tech and French Tech. In the UK we are members of the Tech London Advocates and are participating in London Tech Week.
What are your top three tips for people starting a business today?
1) Define your mission clearly
2) Focus on growth, recruit to grow, organise your team to be scalable: +900% of growth
3) Continue to network and get inspired by tech leaders
Bonus tip: you always have two possibilities: celebrate success OR learn from your mistakes