Q&A: RedBrain CEO Alex Major
Working with various names in the UK and currently listing over 250 million products across Germany, France, Italy and Spain, RedBrain has plans for a European expansion and wants to become the largest price comparison and product discovery network in the world. RTIH got the lowdown from CEO Alex Major.
RTIH: Tell us about RedBrain
AM: RedBrain is Google’s largest shopping and premium CSS (Comparison Shopping Service) solution provider. With over 50% of all CSS accounts across Europe, it currently employs 25 members of staff (many of whom are developers previously employed by Apple, Microsoft and Amazon), services over £2 billion in incremental retailer sales volume every year and generates in excess of two million clicks every day.
With over 40 of our own Google approved CSS websites, we receive over 30 million users every month and achieve over 50 million monthly impressions, offering customers unrivalled reach and enhanced click through rates. Redbrain has three main models: 1) self-service, 2) Managed service and 3) CPA based where clients pay us only for sales generated.
RTIH: What was the inspiration behind setting the company up?
AM: The day after graduating I started my entrepreneurial journey at BSeen, a startup incubator between Aston University and Birmingham Science Park. In 2010, with £3k in my pocket, I went on to launch my first business, InteGames with Hobzy following a year later. By day ten the content network built around Hobzy had 10k registered users and after four years it had four full-time employees and raised £1 million.
However, it hadn’t scaled. After breaking even, I lost interest and decided to close the business. I like to now say “Focus on the money, it’s easy to build nice stuff and not make money.” Shortly after closing Hobzy, still on good terms with the investors, I was approached by Doug Scott, Co-founder of ASAP Compare, at the time one of the UK’s largest Google shopping traffic buyers where following the EU’s 2017, $2.7 billion antitrust fine against Google, we put our heads together and got to work on the transformation of ASAP Compare into what would become RedBrain.
RTIH: What has been the industry reaction thus far?
AM: Those that know about RedBrain love us. Over 6,000 brands now use us to optimise and scale their e-commerce paid media spend. Our client list includes Converse, Nike, Missguided, Samsung, SportsDirect, Waterstones and eBay. We currently service clients all over Europe.
"Most large physical High Street retailers seem to do a pretty good job at store layout. They analyse the data, they employ experts in their field for optimising their sales in-store. Yet so many seem to fail so miserably when it comes to online"
RTIH: What has been your biggest challenge/setback?
AM: The new business proved a success but hit a serious setback after commercial changes with Amazon and eBay. 15 employees were made redundant and I was forced to rebuild the business from scratch. At this time I decided that I wanted to build a deeper relationship with consumers and retailers throughout the buying cycle.
The result was RedBrain as it now and we achieved over £10 million in revenue in our first year. I’ve always wanted to be at the helm of my own business, because if there’s a mistake then it’s my mistake.
RTIH: What are the biggest challenges facing the omnichannel retail sector right now?
AM: One of the biggest issues facing retailers with their omnichannel marketing efforts right now is poor UX online. Most large physical High Street retailers seem to do a pretty good job at store layout. They analyse the data, they employ experts in their field for optimising their sales in-store. Yet so many seem to fail so miserably when it comes to online.
Retailers like Marks and Spencer and Topshop simply have not delivered an exceptional online experience at a time when everything is being done online now. Bricks and mortar stores feed online. Online feeds bricks and mortar etc. The experience should be easy and seamless for the customer, however they choose to interact with a brand. But the reality is sadly different with hard to find products and slow websites that incentivise customers to look elsewhere.
RTIH: What's the best question about your company or the market asked of you recently by a.) an investor and b.) a customer?
AM: I think one of the best questions we have been asked is one asked frequently by our customers and that’s “why isn’t everyone using CSS for their Google shopping campaigns?”. And the answer is relatively simple. Google was forced to implement CSS by the EU after a long running antitrust investigation.
CSS costs Google money both in terms of the rebates it provides advertisers and the fact it has to open the platform up to enhanced levels of competition. By our estimates only about 10% of e-commerce campaigns on Google are run via a CSS partner. Google is not actively promoting CSS to brands. It’s still a relatively new proposition and one that delivers incredible incremental sales against existing online ad spend.
RTIH: What can we expect to see from RedBrain over the next 12 months?
AM: The next 12 months are scheduled to take our headcount from 25 to over 50 and RedBrain is actively pushing into chatbots, voice search whilst improving and expanding our core AI technology for optimising CSS shopping campaigns. We also have a number of new product launches designed specifically for SME businesses to help boost their e-commerce advertising returns.