Tapcart, a ‘Shopify for mobile apps,’ raises a $50 million Series B

Shopify changed the e-commerce landscape by making it easier for merchants to set up their websites both quickly and affordably. A startup called Tapcart is now doing the same for mobile commerce.

The company, which has referred to itself as the “Shopify for mobile apps,” today powers the shopping apps for top brands, including Fashion Nova, Pier One Imports, The Hundreds, Patta, Culture Kings, and thousands more. Following a year of 3x revenue growth, in part driven by the pandemic, Tapcart is today announcing the close of a $50 million round of Series B funding, led by Left Lane Capital. Having clearly taken notice of Tapcart’s traction with its own merchant base, Shopify is among the round’s participants.

Other investors in the round include SignalFire, Greycroft, Act One Ventures and Amplify LA.

Tapcart’s co-founders, Sina Mobasser and Eric Netsch, have worked in the mobile app industry for years. Mobasser’s previous company, TestMax, offered one of the first test prep courses on iOS, while Netsch had more recently worked on the agency side to create mobile and digital experiences for brands. Together, the two realized the potential in helping online merchants bring their businesses to mobile, as easily as they were able to go online with Shopify.

Tapcart’s founders Sina Mobasser and Eric Netsch at their Santa Monica HQ

“Now, you can launch an app on our platform in a matter of weeks, where historically it would take up to a year if you wanted to custom build an app,” explains Mobasser. “And you can do it for a low monthly fee.”

Tapcart’s platform itself offers a simple drag-and-drop builder that allows anyone to create a mobile app for their existing Shopify store using tools to design their layout, customize the product detail pages, integrate checkout options, include product reviews, and even optionally add other branded content, like blogs, lookbooks, videos (including live video) and more. Everything is synced directly from Shopify to the app in real-time, so the merchant’s inventory, products and collections are all kept up-to-date. That’s a big differentiator from some rivals, which require duplicate sets of data and data transformation.

Tapcart, meanwhile, leverages all of Shopify’s APIs and SDKs to create a native application that works with Shopify’s existing data structures.

Image Credits: Tapcart

 

This tight integration with Shopify helps Tapcart because it doesn’t have to focus on the e-commerce infrastructure, as the way things are structured around inventory and collections are roughly 90% the same across brands. Instead, Tapcart focuses on the 10% that makes brands stand out from one another, which includes things like branding, content and design. Its CMS allows merchants to create exclusive content, change the colors and fonts, add videos and more to make the app look and feel fully customized.

Beyond the mobile app creation aspect to its business, Tapcart also helps merchants automate their marketing. Through the Tapcart platform, merchants can communicate with their customers in real-time using push notifications that can alert them to new sales, to encourage them to return to abandoned carts, or any other promotions. The marketing campaigns can be automated, as well, which helps merchants schedule their upcoming launches and product drops ahead of time. The company claims these push notifications deliver click-through rates that are 72% higher than a traditional email or SMS text because of their interactivity and branding.

Image Credits: Tapcart

The platform has quickly found traction with SMB to mid-market enterprise customers who have reached the stage of their business where it makes sense for them to double down on customer retention and conversion and optimize their mobile workflow.

“Our sweet spot is when you have maybe a couple hundred customers in your database,” notes Netsch. “That’s a perfect time to now focus less on the paid acquisition portion of your business and more on how to retain and engage those existing customers, [so they’ll] shop more and have a better experience,” he says.

During the past 12 months, over $1.2 billion in merchant sales have flowed through Tapcart’s platform. And in 2020, Tapcart’s recurring revenue increased by 3x, as mobile apps grew even faster during the pandemic, which had increased consumer mobile screen time by 20% year-over-year from 2019. Mobile commerce spending also grew 55% year-over-year, topping $53 billion globally during the holiday shopping season, the company says. Tapcart’s own merchants saw mobile app orders at a rate of more than once-per-second during this time, and it believes these trends will continue even as the pandemic comes to an end.

Today, Tapcart generates revenue by charging a flat SaaS (software-as-a-service) fee, which differentiates it from a number of competitors who charge a percent of the merchant’s total sales.

Image Credits: Tapcart

With the additional funding, Tapcart plans to focus on its goal of becoming a vertically integrated mobile commerce suite of tools, which more recently includes support for iOS App Clips. It will also soon release an upgraded version of its insights analytics platform and will offer scripts that merchants can install on their mobile websites to compare what works on the site versus what works in the app.

Later this year, Tapcart plans to launch a full marketing automation product that will allow brands to automate and personalize their notifications even further. And it plans to invest in market expansions to make its product better designed for mobile, global commerce.

The funding will allow Santa Monica-based Tapcart to hire another 200 people over the next 24 months, up from the 70 it has currently. These will include new additions across time zones and even in markets like Australia and Europe as it moves toward global expansion.

Shopify’s investment will open up a number of new opportunities as well, including on product, engineering, business strategy and partnerships. It will also help to get Tapcart in front of Shopify’s 1.7 million global merchants.

“There’s still quite a lot of merchants that need better mobile experiences, but have yet to really double down on the mobile effort and get something like a native app,” notes Netsch. “There’s a lot of different ways and methods that merchants are experimenting with mobile growth, and we’re trying to offer all of the best parts of that in a single platform. So there’s tons of expansion for Tapcart to do just that with the existing target addressable market,” he says.

“We believe brands must be where their customers are, and today that means being on their phones,” said Satish Kanwar, VP of product acceleration at Shopify, in a statement. “Tapcart helps merchants create mobile-first shopping experiences that customers love, reinforcing Shopify’s mission to make commerce better for everyone. We look forward to seeing Tapcart expand its success on Shopify with the more than 1.7 million merchants on our platform today.”

 

#apps, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #funding, #marketing, #marketing-automation, #merchants, #mobile, #mobile-app, #mobile-commerce, #mobile-shopping, #mobile-technology, #online-shopping, #recent-funding, #santa-monica, #shopify, #startups, #tapcart, #tc

Greece’s Viva Wallet raises $80M for its neo-bank targeting small business merchants

Challenger banks continue to make significant waves in the world of finance, with smaller outfits luring customers away from incumbents by providing an easier way for them to not only engage with basic banking services, but to tap into a wave of technology that brings more personalization and often better deals into the equation. In the latest development, Viva Wallet, a Greek startup building banking services aimed at small and medium merchants, has picked up financing of $80 million, money that it will be using to expand its footprint and the services that it is offering to users, in particular expanding its Merchant Advance loans business.

The company is already live in 23 European markets and plans soon to expand that to Croatia, Hungary and Sweden.

The funding is notable in part because of who is doing the investing. Tencent — the Chinese technology giant behind Wechat that is also making major inroads into financial services — is in the round, alongside the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Breyer Capital.

Viva Wallet is not disclosing its valuation right now, but it means business. Yannis Larios, the company’s VP of strategy and business development, confirmed to us that it’s in the middle of closing a large Series D — last August sized at €500 million ($603 million) — that will value it at €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion). This is a big leap: he also noted that when Viva Wallet closed its Series C in the second half of 2019, it was valued at €305 million.

“We are excited to onboard Tencent, EBRD and Breyer Capital to Viva Wallet,” said Haris Karonis, Founder and CEO of Viva Wallet, in a statement. “We are confident that our investors’ extensive know-how and network of partnerships will accelerate Viva Wallet’s plan to unify the fragmented European payments market. The technology innovations that we are bringing forward to European merchants will help them provide a frictionless, localised payment experience to all their clients, and liberate them from the hassle of maintaining legacy card terminals.”

The round is notable for coming at a time when Europe is slowly, hopefully poking its head out from under the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has shaken and knocked over many an economy already wobbling even before the public health crisis. Focused primarily on merchants, Viva Wallet is a prime example of the kind of tech business that might help some of these critical businesses recover.

If you think that the world of neo-banks is very crowded — and that specifically neo-banks focussed on the SMB opportunity is also getting crowded — one reason why Viva Wallet is getting some attention is because of its traction and track record so far.

Larios says that the startup has been profitable as of Q1 of this year, on the back of a business that has grown by more than 40% in the last year, with 60,000 merchants currently active on its books. It’s on track, he said, for that number to be 100,000 by the end of this year.

One reason for its success, he said, is that it’s taken a very localized approach to growth, setting up operations with physical branches in each of the countries where it is active — somewhat of a retro idea in today’s market where banks are regularly shutting down their brick-and-mortar locations and going virtual. “Viva Wallet is proving the resilience of its business model,” he said.

The funding will be used in part to build out its loans program but also to expand areas where Viva Wallet is already strong. One of these is its point of sale Tap-On-Phone solution, which turns any Android device (smartphone, tablet or enterprise device) into a card terminal, to accept both contactless and PIN payments without the need for separate hardware. (Most POS systems use small, separate terminals that will connect to a tablet or phone.)

He also said there will be some M&A in the future to expand to more markets more quickly.

One area where the company will not expand is into the consumer space. Other neo-banks like Revolut and Atom have leveraged their traction with younger consumers to move into providing services for the enterprises that they found, but Larios that that is not a strategy that Viva Wallet will take in the reverse, not least because the consumer market has so far proven to be a tough-margin (or even bad-margin) game.

“Viva Wallet focuses on businesses only and will continue to do so!” he said (exclamation his!). “The consumer segment is not providing any space for profitability and we are seeing that all competing neo-bank business models focusing on consumers are mostly burning money away.

“We are focusing on the SMEs of Europe, providing a pan-European payments solution which however is very much localized to address merchants’ true local needs in terms of local payments acceptance, local IBAN accounts, local BIN business debit cards etc.” But while Viva Wallet may have a lot of SMB customers — and the EBRD investment is definitely being made to endorse that — he points out that it also includes medium businesses and some enterprises — larger merchants like supermarket chains, for example — and that will be an area it will continue to expand in.

This gives Viva Wallet enough specialization and differentiation, alongside its profitability in targeting those areas so far, to bring in the big name investors keen to tap into economic recovery, both to help that along and to ride the wave of that as it pays dividends.

“We are very excited to help Viva Wallet unify the fragmented European payments ecosystem across 23 countries. Viva Wallet is at the forefront of a paradigm shift for fintech and together, we expect to transform the payments industry in Europe” said Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital, in a statement.

“Tencent shares Viva Wallet’s aspirations of creating value for users and partners through innovation. We look forward to supporting Viva Wallet in its expansion across Europe,” added Danying Ma, MD of Tencent Investment.

#breyer-capital, #challenger-banks, #commerce, #ecommerce, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #merchants, #neo-bank, #neobank, #point-of-sale, #pos, #smbs, #tencent, #viva-wallet

Shopify expands its payment option, Shop Pay, to its merchants on Facebook and Instagram

Shopify announced this morning it’s partnered with Facebook to expand its payment option, Shop Pay, to all Shopify merchants selling across both Facebook and Instagram. This is the first time Shop Pay will be made available outside of Shopify’s own platform, and represents a significant expansion for the e-commerce platform’s payments technology.

The company tells TechCrunch Shop Pay will first become available to all Shopify merchants using checkout on Instagram in the U.S., and will then be rolled out to Facebook in the weeks that follow.

Prior to this launch, Facebook’s platform has been one of Shopify’s most popular sales and marketing channels for merchants, Shopify says. At the beginning of the pandemic last year (March through April 2020), marketing on Facebook and Instagram via Shopify’s channel integration saw 36% growth in monthly active users, and that trend continues to rise.

Today, Shop Pay’s payment option is used by a number of top direct-to-consumer and newer brands, including Allbirds, Kith, Beyond Yoga, Kylie Cosmetics, Jonathan Adler, Loeffler Randall, Blueland and others. Over 40 million buyers now regularly use Shop Pay at these merchants and others on Shopify’s platform to complete their purchases.

Image Credits: Shopify

Through the course of 2020, Shop Pay helped buyers complete 137 million orders. And by the end of the year, Shop Pay had facilitated nearly $20 billion in cumulative GMV since its launch in 2017. Through its carbon offsetting feature, this also represented 75,000 tons of carbon emissions.

In addition to the carbon offsets, Shopify claims Shop Pay on its own platform is 70% faster with a conversion rate that’s 1.72x higher than a typical checkout. It also includes order tracking and management, which, to date, have tracked over 430 million orders across over 450 million miles.

Once available on Instagram, consumers will be able to find tagged products from Shopify merchants in the app, then add them to their in-app cart. At checkout, they can then select Shop Pay as their preferred payment option from among credit card, debit card, and PayPal. The consumer will receive a confirmation code to their phone, then enter the code to complete the order without leaving Instagram. A similar experience will be available on Facebook.

These orders can also be tracked via Shopify’s Shop app, the same as those processed on Shopify itself.

Image Credits: Shopify

“People are embracing social platforms not only for connection, but for commerce,” said Carl Rivera, General Manager of Shop, in a statement. “Making Shop Pay available outside of Shopify for the first time means even more shoppers can use the fastest and best checkout on the Internet. And there’s more to come; we’ll continue to work with Facebook to bring a number of Shopify services and products to these platforms to make social selling so much better.”

This is not the first third-party payment option integrated into Facebook’s shopping platforms, as PayPal is also accepted. But it is a notable addition, given how heavily Facebook has pushed its own “shops” platform, which encourages merchants to sell and transact within its own apps — an even more critical source of revenue now that Apple’s privacy changes will impact Facebook’s ads business to the tune of billions of dollars. But likely, working with a third-party like Shopify is allowing the company to spin up a new revenue stream.

Shopify, however, declined to discuss its financial arrangement with Facebook.

Shopify isn’t limiting itself to Facebook in an effort to expand its e-commerce business. Last fall, it also partnered with TikTok on social commerce, allowing merchants to publish their marketing ads directly to the video platform.

#e-commerce, #ecommerce, #facebook, #fintech, #instagram, #merchants, #payments, #shopify, #shopping, #shops, #tc

Google Maps takes on Facebook with launch of its own news feed

People are getting frustrated that Stories are everywhere now, but Google Maps is keeping it old school. Instead of adding tiny circles to the top of the app’s screen, Google Maps is introducing its own news feed. Technically, Google calls its new feature the “Community Feed,” as it includes posts from a local area. However, it’s organized as any other news feed would be — a vertically scrollable feed with posts you can “Like” by tapping on a little thumbs up icon.

The feed, which is found with the Explore tab of the Google Maps app, is designed to make it easier to find the most recent news, updates, and recommendations from trusted local sources. This includes posts business owners create using Google My Business to alert customers to new deals, menu updates, and other offers. At launch, Google says the focus will be on highlighting posts from food and drink businesses.

For years, businesses have been able to make these sorts of posts using Google’s tools. But previously, users would have to specifically tap to follow the business’s profile in order to receive their updates.

Now, these same sort of posts will be surfaced to even those Google Maps users who didn’t take the additional step of following a particular business. This increased exposure has impacted the posts’ views, Google says. In early tests of Community Feed ahead of its public launch, Google found that businesses’ posts saw more than double the number of views than before the feed existed.

Image Credits: Google

In addition to posts from businesses, the new Community Feed will feature content posted by Google users you follow as well as recent reviews from Google’s Local Guides — the volunteer program where users share their knowledge about local places in order to earn perks, such as profile badges, early access to Google features, and more. Select publishers will participate in the Community Feed, too, including The Infatuation and other news sources from Google News, when relevant.

Much of the information found in the Community Feed was available elsewhere in Google Maps before today’s launch.

For example, the Google Maps’ Updates tab offered a similar feed that included businesses’ posts along with news, recommendations, stories, and other features designed to encourage discovery. Meanwhile, the Explore tab grouped businesses into thematic groupings (e.g. outdoor dining venues, cocktail bars, etc.) at the top of the screen, then allowed users to browse other lists and view area photos.

With the update, those groups of businesses by category will still sit at the top of the screen, but the rest of the tab is dedicated to the scrollable feed. This gives the tab a more distinct feel than it had before. It could even position Google to venture into video posts in the future, given the current popularity of TikTok-style  short-form video feeds that have now cloned by Instagram and Snapchat.

Image Credits: Google

Today, it’s a more standard feed, however. As you scroll down, you can tap “Like” on those posts you find interesting to help better inform your future recommendations. You can also tap “Follow” on businesses you want to hear more from, which will send their alerts to your Updates tab, as well. Thankfully, there aren’t comments.

Google hopes the change will encourage users to visit the app more often in order to find out what’s happening in their area — whether that’s a new post from a business or a review from another user detailing some fun local activity, like a day trip or new hiking spot, for example.

The feature can be used when traveling or researching other areas, too, as the “Community Feed” you see is designated not based on where you live or your current location, but rather where you’re looking on the map.

The feed is the latest in what’s been a series of updates designed to make Google Maps more of a Facebook rival. Over the past few years, Google Maps has added features that allowed users to follow businesses, much like Facebook does, as well as message those businesses directly in the app, similar to Messenger. Businesses, meanwhile, have been able to set up their own profile in Google Maps, where they could add a logo, cover photo, and pick short name — also a lot like Facebook Pages offer today.

With the launch of a news feed-style feature, Google’s attempt to copy Facebook is even more obvious.

Google says the feature is rolling out globally on Google Maps for iOS and Android.

 

 

#android, #android-apps, #apps, #business, #businesses, #food, #google, #google-my-business, #google-maps, #ios-apps, #maps, #merchants, #news-feed

To fight fraud, Amazon now screens third-party sellers through video calls

Amazon is piloting a new system aimed at validating the identify of third-party sellers over video conferencing, the company announced on Sunday. The technology is a part of a series of seller verification processes that Amazon uses to combat fraud on its platform, which the company claims stopped 2.5 million suspected bad actors from publishing their products to Amazon in 2019.

Earlier this year, Amazon began testing a process where seller verifications were handled in person. But due to the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing requirements, the company says it pivoted to live video conferencing in February.

The pilot program is now running in a number of markets, including the U.S., U.K., China and Japan. To date, over 1,000 sellers have attempted to register an account through the pilot experience, Amazon says.

To vet the sellers, Amazon’s team sets up a video call then checks that the individual’s ID matches the person and the documents they shared with their application. The Amazon associates also lean on third-party data sources for additional verification. In addition, the call may be used to provide the seller with information about problems with their registration and how to resolve them.

“Amazon is always innovating to improve the seller experience so honest entrepreneurs can seamlessly open a selling account and start a business, while also proactively blocking bad actors,” an Amazon spokesperson said about the new initiative. “As we practice social distancing, we are testing a process that allows us to validate prospective sellers’ identification via video conferencing. This pilot allows us to connect one-on-one with prospective sellers while making it even more difficult for fraudsters to hide,” they said.

In addition to video conferencing, Amazon also uses a proprietary machine learning system to vet sellers before they’re allowed online, it says. This system analyzes hundreds of different data point to identify potential risk, including verifying whether the account is related to another account that was previously removed from the marketplace, for example. The sellers’ applications are also reviewed by trained investigators before being approved.

Seller verification is only one way Amazon has taken on fraud, however.

The issue continues to be a serious problem across online marketplaces, where sellers hawk counterfeit items and scam consumers. Some retailers, including Nike and Birkenstock, have found the the hassles aren’t worth the risk of dealing with Amazon, as a result.

While the retailer has long been accused of avoiding issues around fraud, it’s more recently pledged to spend billions to address the problem and has inserted itself into legal battles with fraudulent sellers and counterfeiters in recent years.

For example, it  it filed three lawsuits in 2018 in partnership with fashion designer Vera Bradley and mobile accessories maker Otterbox over counterfeits. It has also sued sellers buying fake reviews and others involved in the fake review industry. 

Last year, Amazon announced an initiative called  Project Zero, which introduced a range of tools for brands to use to help Amazon fight fraud. The brands can opt to provide Amazon with their logos, trademarks and other key data, allowing the retailer to scan its billions of product listings to find suspected counterfeits more proactively.

Another tool, serialization, allows brands to include a unique code on their products during manufacturing, which can later be scanned to verify that a purchase is authentic. This tool, now known as Transparency, expanded to other markets last summer, including Europe, Canada and India.

But unlike these earlier efforts, seller verification aims to cut down on products being listed in the first place –not just removed once listings go live or stopping fraudulent products from being shipped to customers.

 

#amazon, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #fraud, #marketplace, #merchants, #online-retail, #retail, #sellers, #third-party-sellers

Tinvio, a communication platform for supply chain merchants, gets $5.5 million seed round

Being a supply chain merchant often means cobbling together different ways of keeping in touch with buyers, including emails, text messages and paper invoices. Tinvio wants to simplify the process with a communication and commerce platform designed especially for managing orders.

The Singapore-based startup announced today that it has raised $5.5 million in seed funding, led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge early-stage accelerator program, with participation from Global Founders Capital and Partech Partners.

Along with a pre-seed round from Rocket Internet, this brings Tinvio’s total raised so far to $6.5 million. The startup was founded in July 2019 by Ajay Gopal, who previously worked at Rocket Internet in Berlin. Before that, he was a fintech investment banker at Credit Suisse.

Since launching, Tinvio’s customer base has grown to over 1,000 businesses in more than 10 cities. Over the next 12 months, it plans to add more cities and languages, as well as digital financial services.

Tinvio is targeted at small-to mid-sized merchants, and many of its customers are in the food and beverage (F&B), retail and healthcare supply industries.

“At its core, Tinvio is a real-time messaging app. For every 10 orders placed on Tinvio, there’s an average of two messages sent, reinforcing that communication is critical in fragmented supply chains,” Gopal told TechCrunch.

One of Tinvio’s selling points is that merchants can continue to receive orders through their existing channels, including email, SMS or WhatsApp. By consolidating those orders in one app, Tinvio is also able to create a real-time digital ledger, making it easier for merchants to track invoices, fulfillment and finances.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, order volumes between merchants and suppliers on Tinvio have fallen about 30% to 50% in most cities, Gopal said, “though retention rates remain high, suggesting that many businesses are trying their best to stay open. We talk to them often, and we’re quite awed by their resilience to keep trying, keep finding a way to make it work.”

He added, “Our tech is designed to be fully customizable, so we’ve started organically supporting many of their new use cases.”

For example, some food and beverage merchants have started using Tinvio to manage group orders with consumers instead. Since many businesses have let go of staff, this means merchants have become more reliant on the app to keep track of orders and inbound/outbound deliveries. Tinvio has started expanding this into a new feature and also begun customizing soft-integrations for suppliers so they don’t have to manually add data to their ERP software.

Two weeks ago, Tinvio also launched a project called Save Our Nomnoms to help direct more orders to food and beverage merchants in Singapore, which is currently under partial lockdown. The project started with 40 brands, and has since grown to include more than 300 brands.

#asia, #commerce, #fundings-exits, #merchants, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #supply-chain, #tc, #tinvio