A couple of years ago LoyaltyLion co-founder, Charlie Casey, embarked on an adventure that would take him on a journey to his lifelong dream of business-ownership. His company has grown in an explosive manner since its launch in 2013, and has seen Charlie live in a toilet-less apartment in Berlin, receive investment from some of the biggest names in his industry, and make his customers hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue in a matter of days.

LoyaltyLion helps e-commerce stores to retain their customers and, in turn, achieve the success they strive for. Below, we learn that Casey has a fairly impressive success story of his own…

A matter of when, not if

My whole life I’ve known I’ll start a company. It was always a matter of when, not if.  So after graduating from university and then working at Deloitte as a consultant for three and half years, I decided it was time. I sat down and divided an A4 sheet into four sections and then filled each section with topics I know a lot about and the problems associated with them. The start of LoyaltyLion was right there on the page.

It took 18 months to take the business from an idea on paper to being live with our first LoyaltyLion user. In that 18 months, I met my co-founder and CTO, Dave Clark, a highly skilled developer. The two of us were selected from 400 applicants to participate in Europe’s number one startup accelerator program, Startupbootcamp Berlin. It was here that we saw the idea for LoyaltyLion evolve.

Finding a common itch to scratch

Deciding when to launch is a tough decision because you want the product to be perfect before putting it out there. We launched with our first beta customer at the start of 2013 and with our first paying customer in November 2013.

Recognising what had proven itself to be a clear need with our customers all started with me personally talking with over 200 e-commerce stores, large and small. They all said the same thing: customer retention and engagement online is our biggest challenge.

Understanding what the customer wants

LoyaltyLion is trusted by over 400 brands worldwide and our investors include the former E-commerce Director of ASOS, James Hart and the co-founder of Europe’s largest loyalty program, Jan Boluminski. We’re the leading digital loyalty framework for e-commerce stores, and essentially allow our customers to create their own loyalty program, reward any on-site activity and gain customer insights. We know that retailers spend millions building their brand so LoyaltyLion is fully customisable, which is really what makes us stand out from the crowd.

Our success follows the success of our customers

E-commerce stores know that their future success depends on their current customers. Which is why LoyaltyLion helps these stores increase customer loyalty and therefore their chances of success. To create this success we give them the best tools available to increase customer loyalty. And to do that we need to keep pace with all major changes in e-commerce software, which includes desktop, mobile and in-store. We also need to consider the way stores communicate with their customers; is email the most effective, or Facebook, text message or even post? We’re proud to say that we generate e-commerce stores thousands in revenue, for example the Chivery made $100,000 in their first 30 days, whilst Eternal Creation sees 14% of their entire revenue from LoyaltyLion.

Creating our own customer loyalty

When it comes to marketing, we simply think about the challenges e-commerce stores are facing or the questions they have and write about those. I always put myself in the shoes of a storeowner and ask myself, is this interesting? Does it help me? If the answer is yes, then I publish it. We don’t use Adwords, Facebook or Linkedin. I believe in creating our own audience and relevant content is the best way to do that. It also has a much longer lifespan than a banner ad.

We maintain our customer base by making sure LoyaltyLion is always adding value. Very early on in the business we created the role of Customer Success Manager. These people do a fantastic job. They check that every store has set up their program correctly and they provide bespoke advice to ensure the e-commerce store gets the most from LoyaltyLion.

We’re constantly evolving, innovating, growing

I’m extremely proud of the people who have chosen to work for LoyaltyLion and those that support us. We’re never short of ideas, which means we’re always evolving. Data is vital to loyalty programs so the future of LoyaltyLion will see richer data that gives stores actionable insights. The key is to save e-commerce stores time.

Our investors include the most experienced entrepreneurs in our industry, for example James Hart (mentioned above), Jan Boluminski (the co-founder of PAYBACK), Tim Jackson (the founder of QXL) and Kyle York (the CMO of Dyn). And our employees have diverse backgrounds, which brings different perspectives together and helps when deciding what to build next.

Taking the rough with the smooth pays off

Along the way to our current growth we made some huge sacrifices, both personal and financial. Both me and my co-founder left high-paid secure jobs. Six months into our journey we had so little money that we shared a one-bedroom apartment in Berlin with no bathroom (it did have the parts of a bathroom, but as the website description playfully said “they’re not assembled in the regular way” – the shower was in the hall whilst the toilet was in a cupboard!

Just before we launched we decided to relocate back from Berlin to London. This was a huge gamble because we didn’t yet have investment. It was promised, but not in the bank. After moving, setting up office and hiring, we decided to reject the investors. In hindsight this was a fantastic decision, but at the time we were in £4,000 debt so it was a hard choice to make. Me and my co-founder took out personal loans from the Start Up Loans scheme because we believed in our business and shortly after we secured investment from some of the best Angel investors in London.

A word of advice…

To new business starters I would say: Work for a start-up before deciding to do your own. Most start-ups are open working environments so you’ll be able to talk with the founders about their challenges and long-term strategy, this will help you determine whether the start-up life is for you.

Find out more information about Charlie Casey and LoyaltyLion by visiting: www.loyaltylion.com/

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