How does a self acclaimed internet addict come to the idea of starting a social review company? We interviewed Tomer Tagrin, CEO at Yotpo, one of the most popular apps in the SEOshop Store. In this blogpost you'll read his inspiring story that shows us how to grow a startup into one the most popular social review tools worldwide.
How it all started
Tagrin graduated in 2011 at Tel Aviv University where he was awarded a BSc in Software Engineering. 'I was a real internet addict and tech geek, with an entrepreneurial mindset', says Tagrin.
Tagrin's resume surely does show his entrepreneurial mindset. During his studies he starts his first company called Ikick Israel, a company that imports the Chinese game 'jianzi' to Israel. 'I managed the entire operation: starting from negotiating with the Chinese manufacturer, and branding the product in Israel to distributing the product to more than 200 stores'. Later Tagrin would join Intel, as a Chip Design Developer, which further increased his desire to work in the online space.
So how did the idea to start Yotpo come to life? 'It's actually an embarrassing story', Tagrin says with a smile. 'I was looking for a good camera, did a lot of research and eventually found the one I was looking for. I was bragging about it with friends, but once it arrived, it turned out to be of very poor quality. Obviously, my friends were making fun of me'. So that made you think there would be a better way to review products? 'Exactly, I felt that if my friends on various social media channels would have advised me on which camera to buy, based on their own experience, I would have made a better decision. That's how Yotpo started'.
How Yotpo became successful
So how does an Israel based company become successful in North America and Europe? 'Simply said: the need for the product', says Tagrin. 'Yotpo works well for both the merchant and the end user, and in effect leads to a better conversion rate. We have partnerships with Facebook and Google, which have put us ahead of our competition, and lastly, the technology behind it really works well'.
So partnerships are very important for a company like Yotpo? 'Yes, we look around and work with companies that make sense for us. Companies like SEOshop that are ambitious and can move as fast as us'.
Currently 45 people are working on the further expansion of Yotpo. The expectation is that this will grow to 60 people by the end of the year. Yotpo is used by 60 thousand stores worldwide, and the company has raised 15 million dollars of funding in 3 rounds. The European growth of the company is quite fascinating. According to Tomer, 25% of his customers are coming from Europe.
Yotpo is very popular in the US, and growing in Europe. Do you see a lot of cultural differences between Americans and Europeans? 'Yes, we do. In general I can say that Americans like to dream. Their aim is to become the next Zalando. Europeans are more practical. They don't believe they'll be the next Zalando, but just want to know how they can improve their online business'. So, just out of curiosity, where do the Israelis stand? 'I would say they are somewhere in between', Tagrin replies. 'Probably a bit more like the Europeans, but we do like to dream as well. In the end, we like to be practical though. You will find people from Israel having lots of trouble with visions and missions, since they will always ask the question: so, what are we going to do concretely?'
I've noticed that your product is available in Dutch too. Do you localise Yotpo in every country you expand to? 'Localisation is very important for us, so we make sure that everything is translated well, and that the product suits the local needs. We have a huge base of brand ambassadors that are translating content for us'. So you are saying that your customers are translating your content? 'Yes, they do. And since they know the product so well, we can be sure that the translation is done perfectly'.
The future of trust building
What is in your opinion the power of feedback? 'I think this can be divided in three elements. First of all, with feedback you can find out what customers think of your business. It's a continuous feedback loop. Secondly, it allows you to engage with your customers, and make them feel part of your business. Lastly, I believe that feedback allows businesses to have a 1-on-1 conversation with customers, but one that is more scalable'.
Yotpo's service is mostly about building trust. Can you share your thoughts on the future of trust building? Which trends do you see? 'I see that mobile is really becoming big, which is also important for services like ours. The penetration of smartphones is still increasing. The other trends I see is trust building between businesses. So businesses reviewing other businesses, so they can increase their trust in a B2B environment'.
Yotpo is quite unique in its kind, but there are many other product review tools that, more or less, do the same thing. Do you think they will manage to co-exist, or do you expect a few big players to prevail in the end? 'I think there's enough space for players to co-exist. Companies that will prevail are those that manage to focus on three things: a customer centric approach, a great product, and delivering value'.
There are still many players who either deliver product reviews or company reviews. Do you think there will be a further migration of the two in the future? 'Yes, I do think so. I believe they both deliver the same experience to customers, and that is exactly the reason why we deliver both'.
In Europe we also see that national ecommerce associations - those that look after the interests of European online merchants - are incorporating product and company reviews in their services. They already built a brand that is strongly based on trust. Do you think that could be a threat to companies that deliver review services like Yotpo? 'Not really. I think that as long as you manage to answer your customer’s needs, and continue to focus on your product, you will be able to work on your own. As I said before, it's all about a customer centric approach, having a great product, and delivering value'.
Inspiration for online merchants
Just like you, our customers have started their own online business. Can you share some of what you have learnt?
'Sure! I think that when you start, it's very important to build your brand first. Don't forget, you're not Amazon, so you need to give customers a reason to buy in your store instead. Product and company reviews can play a role in that'.
'The other thing that I learned when I started Yotpo, was the importance of listening to your customers. You need to get as much feedback as possible. I spoke to customers for hours to find out what they really wanted. Sometimes I would even put the phone on speakers, so the whole company could hear it. That has been extremely beneficial for the growth of Yotpo'.
Do you have any questions for Tomer Tagrin yourself? Please share them in the comment section below.