Hundreds more jobs, new international offices and a ‘revolutionary’ piece of technology are just a few of the big changes ahead in 2013 for online efficiency solution site Ve Interactive.
The London-headquartered tech business, which also has offices in the US, Australia, Sweden, Brazil, two in Germany and one in China, is going through a major growth spurt as co-founder and chief executive officer, David-Joseph Brown, explains.
Speaking from the firm’s six-storey Clerkenwell-based hub, which is also set to expand in the coming months by opening a new adjacent office, entrepreneur Brown said the cart recovery and online efficiency business is booming – reflective of a thriving performance marketing industry, not just in the UK, but globally.
With a recruitment drive underway in the UK for 90 more staff to join the current team of 130, Brown; who is a classically trained pianist with a background in digital music production, said his recruitment mission does not stop there. He hopes to take his global workforce of 300, up to as many as 500 by the end of the year.
EU Expansion, China, Brazil and Beyond
Despite having London-based international desks servicing France, Italy, Benelux and Spain, Brown said the time has now come to open physical offices in France and Amsterdam – this July.
“Our Paris office will open in July. We have built a footprint from here (UK), with totally French staff, not second-language people, they are all entirely French,” Brown said.
“But there comes a point when a physical presence is needed and there is that expectation that we need to be there,” Brown said.
“It’s important for us to able to service clients properly and locally in their languages with tangible staff and offices. So for example, for those that are based in London, but are working with another country such as Germany; everyone that connects with that platform is German - all the way through to having German-speaking designers.”
Paris will open with six employees and Amsterdam will most likely kick-off with 12; most sourced from international recruitment fairs.
While there are no plans to branch into fresh markets, Brown said the company, which tracks £21 million a minute, will be upping its focus on the major and key market of China, following the launch of its Shanghai office in January this year.
Brown also highlighted strong growth in Ve’s US and South American ventures.
The number of employees at Ve’s Boston office has grown from five to 32 since its 2011 launch. Yet despite the growth in the city office, Brown said there are no plans to open further offices elsewhere in America as he feels the budding ‘tech-hub’ of Boston is the best location.
He said the Brazilian market was Ve’s fastest growing market in April, the ‘pragmatic’ US market has been the most consistently growing region overall, and because of its rapid global expansion, its largest market, the UK, now only makes up 40% of its global business.
Although Brazil may lack the performance marketing knowledge base and technology that the savvy UK sector has, Brown said he has high hopes for the emerging region.
“In terms of cultural events, Brazil has two of the biggest sporting events in the world coming up; the Olympics and the World Cup, so there is such a thirst and a rush for improvement to equal other countries,” Brown said.
On the subject of entering new zones, Brown, who in 1997 created global interactive media company Serious, before selling it in 2007, said Ve is only ‘contemplating’ entering Russia and while India is not on the cards, he would not rule it out down the line.
“I think a trend we have seen, an obvious trend, is that there is so much more internationalisation going on and retailers are starting to realise that if they can work in one country then they can of course work in another,” Brown added.
Integrity, Data and Compliance
In terms of the hot topics and key issues right now, Brown stressed the importance of integrity within the industry and how other players who cut corners or flout regulations and laws are damaging the industry that so many try to protect, develop and continue to professionalise.
“Within cart abandonment I think a lot of companies get misled into what they are actually buying and what they are using, how they are protected, how their brand is brandished and the effects on the consumer etc,” Brown said.
“Using cart abandonment as a silo solution is a failure for a merchant if you ask me. You have got to be conscious of everything else you are doing in performance and in general marketing - so you don’t cannibalise and you get the best return.
“Integrity is the big thing, not feeding off the problem. It’s about looking at the broader digital strategy and making sure we match the aims of the business.”
With Ve’s business growing in so many regions and a whole raft of data and compliance regulations to keep abreast of and adhere too, Brown said ‘compliance’ is another key factor within performance marketing. The company has also just taken on its first full-time lawyer, hailing from Google.
“In every country we have entered the data regulation is entirely different and we have invested a huge amount of capital into working with law firms in all different countries; to understand what data compliance is,” Brown begins.
“We’ve prided ourselves of spending that money and doing that research and we have been shocked at what we have found in many cases. Take Germany as an example; we know there are operators in our space that work in Germany that are managing campaigns for people that are completely illegal. They are completely ignorant of the law.”
Brown said data and compliance has been a ‘fascinating area’ for them and has also highlighted just how little some retailers know about data, compliance and the legality of it.
With two pending software products due to be released this summer, taking the total amount of software products Ve has released to 14, Brown said the new offering is set to ‘revolutionise’ the online efficiency solution industry.
“In July and August we have two products coming out that are landmark products that are going to revolutionise our industry – it’s very exciting,” Brown said.
Brown, who said more than £2 million will be spent on technology, research and development from now until the end of the year, said he could not divulge any more, but one of the products relies on its own tagging system.
Wider Industry Relationships & Entrepreneurial Ethos
When asked about any industry pet hates and trends, Brown said he feels the performance marketing agencies ‘love to hate’ the performance marketing networks, and vice versa, and that there is a lack of harmonisation between the two.
While he finds the US market ‘pragmatic and mature’, in terms of the affiliate space Brown thinks the US is ‘done with the affiliate networks’. He said company’s do not want to continue to pay the overrides and do not want to ‘cannibalise’ the same market.
Instead Brown says companies would rather invest more into search or their own software, as they know that the ‘brand is stronger than the network’.
“But over here in the UK it’s almost like the networks are a little bit naive about what is happening in the US; like it’s not going to happen here and I think it’s going to be a huge slap in the face when it does.”
Brown, who is also in the process of snapping up a PR firm, recruitment firm and law firm, said his version of entrepreneurialism, is perhaps more of an ‘old fashioned’ one.
“It’s not about ideas, it’s about taking a business and achieving more than someone else would with the same resources - and being technically and fundamentally grounded as well as creative,” Brown said.