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SimplicityDX: Story-oriented commerce

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Bianca Iulia Simion

· 4 min read
SimplicityDX: Story-oriented commerce
Dive into an interview with Charles Nicholls, the CEO of SimplicityDX, transforming how people shop online and how brands sell.

Charles Nicholls is a seasoned entrepreneur in the social commerce sphere. He founded SeeWhy, a real-time personalization and machine learning platform, which he later sold to SAP generating an 8.3x return for investors. As the CEO and founder of SimplicityDX, Nicholls brings a wealth of expertise to the table, creating an exciting new category in the e-commerce space.

SimplicityDX, makes it easy for brands and retailers to blend storytelling with shopping and doing so to acquire customers much more cost-effectively.

1. What ‘aha’ moment led to the founding of SimplicityDX?

To be honest it is something that we’ve wanted to do for some time – there’s an obvious gap between how customers discover new products (frequently on social media through brand stories and influencers) and the blunt transactional experience of e-commerce. We’ve conducted primary research into the way that consumers shop for more than 20 years and were well aware of the problems that shoppers face when using social for shopping. Eighty-six percent of US online shoppers have had a recent bad experience when clicking through from social to a brand’s website, so it’s very common. This results in very high bounce rates (when customers leave without engaging, ~70%) and low conversion rates (~1%). Fix both of those, and you’ve got a very big business opportunity.

2. What was your drive back then? What change did you want to make?

Our motivation was in two dimensions: (1) we wanted the ‘get the gang back together again’ because we’d all worked at SeeWhy and loved working together; (2) the size of the opportunity and the timing was right. We were surprised that no one had tackled this problem given the fundamental shifts in the way that consumers buy – 86% of Generation Z shop on social every week, while 41% start every product search on social. But the way e-commerce converts traffic hasn’t changed or adapted in thirty years!

3. What is the social shopping problem and how does SimplicityDX solve it?

Our consumer research tells us that 75% of consumers want to buy on the brand’s website – trust is a huge issue and most want a direct brand relationship. Equally, brands need direct relationships with customers because profitability is typically driven by repeat sales, not first-time sales (due to the high costs of customer acquisition). To do this they need to be able to market to customers directly, typically using email. But it's very hard for brands to build engaging shopping experiences – the tools and processes involved take too long. This is especially true for social ads, which change frequently and where the story being told is frequently aspirational showing products in context and using rich media. As a consequence, almost all brands send their social traffic through to product pages, even though they know that this won’t convert traffic to revenue very well.

SimplicityDX (as its name implies) makes it very simple for brands to build campaign-specific microsites with just a few clicks of a mouse. We use automation and AI extensively to automate the process of building digital experiences that mirror the campaign’s storytelling and engage customers. We typically see that brands will drive between 50% and 300% more revenue for the same ad spend using this approach. This makes SimplicityDX a very compelling solution to a familiar problem, and the solution with the highest ROI in ecommerce.

4. How do you scale your business, driving financial success?

We started solely on the Shopify platform initially and are now in the process of adding more e-commerce platforms to meet demand. We quickly realized that the larger the company, the bigger the problem so we’re going upmarket rapidly and are dealing with some of the largest e-commerce sites in the US, if not globally who have contacted us.

Secondly, and the main purpose of our fundraising, is to bring in Business Development and pre-and post-sales heads to enable us to sell to the very largest enterprises. The upside is significant – any one of these deals would hit our sales target for the whole year.

5. How does SimplicityDX empower businesses to make informed decisions in adopting and optimizing their e-commerce solutions?

SimplicityDX has deep expertise in social commerce which stems from both consumer research and extensive testing of different tactics. Our goal is to educate our customers with this knowledge and expertise to enable them to ‘fish for themselves’ (become self-sufficient). So our customer engagement is to become the trusted partner to enable them to drive more revenue from social, using our technology. But just to be very clear, this is a software business with deep domain expertise where the revenues come from license subscriptions, not a services business.

6. What are potential exit scenarios for investors supporting SimplicityDX?

The SimplicityDX team has all had one or more successful exits, so we know the ropes. Merchant sales of businesses like SimplicityDX almost always come from partners who get to know the business and begin to depend on it. Since SimplicityDX sits at the intersection between social and commerce there are multiple potential exit scenarios, though our focus is on building a very big, fast-growing business, and leveraging partners, not an exit per se. In doing so it will become ‘strategic’ to multiple parties in the space.

7. How do you envision the company's future growth within the realm of edge commerce and its broader implications for the future of online retail?

Great question. I’ve talked mainly about social so far, but social is just one ‘edge’ and there’s no doubt that shopping has shifted to the edge. Most shopping journeys, especially for new customers, start away from the brand’s website on other platforms. There are many different edges, each of which shares the same problem – when you cross channels from the edge the experience breaks. We see SimplicityDX as an edge shopping platform that makes it easy for brands to deliver highly engaging experiences for all their edges, wherever the customer is at that moment in time. After all, brands need to be where their customers choose to be, and not expect them to come to the brand.

8. Do you have a mentor or person you admire in the tech industry?

Many! I’m humble enough to know how much I don’t know. It’s also one of the reasons why we wanted to extend our VC round to include a broader cross-section of investors. I’ve found in the past that angel investors bring a lot of value and a different perspective from VCs and can provide wise counsel.

9. Why should investors consider being part of SimplicityDX's journey?

The salesman in me says “It’s a rocketship that’s accelerating fast and you should jump on now while you can.” A more down-to-earth part of me would say: that the company is backed by proven innovators who have all worked together in the past. They know this space better than anyone else. They’re backed by VCs who know them and have made money with them before. They’re creating a new category in a vibrant fast-growing market where customers are already aware of the problem. The product is completely different from anything before it – not just a better mousetrap. The product works incredibly well – last week a customer generated more than 700% more revenue in an A/B test compared with sending traffic to their e-commerce site. There are very big returns that solve a pressing and familiar business problem. Everyone’s super excited - it’s why I’ve personally put $275k into this round, and why most of the employees are all investors too.

Explore the opportunity on SeedBlink.

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