How Uniqodo began to secure the future of coupon codes
Born from an idea sparked by a challenge in the market, Uniqodo sprang to life as a coupon code service provider in 2014. Today, with their unique software-as-a-service, Uniqodo helps some of the largest ecommerce companies run personalised and precise marketing campaigns. They do this by securely tracking coupon codes, giving brands endless opportunities for campaign personalisation and better conversion rates. So, where did it all begin?
We asked founders Chris Giddins and Julius Somoye to share the story of how they came to solve the issues of viral sharing and lost revenue for brands using coupon code as part of their digital marketing strategy.
Chris, can you tell us about your early interests and how your career started?
CG: Sure. My main interest at school-age was motor racing and cars. Because I wasn’t particularly focused on studying, I didn’t do too well at school. The wider world of work was more interesting for me, so after getting a few GCSEs, I didn’t hesitate in trying my hand at various jobs in pubs and restaurants.
I then started working for a mail order company that sold model cars, motor racing merchandise, brand clothing and that kind of thing. When they wanted to get a new website up and running, I was the guy in the office who could fix computer problems, so they asked me to get involved. At first I acted as a support to the ecommerce manager but eventually, I looked after the whole website.
In 2003, I was tasked with looking into marketing opportunities, particularly affiliate marketing. I got in touch with Awin and chose them to be our platform supplier. We developed a good working relationship; so much so, they offered me a job! The role was based in London, which attracted me, so I upped sticks and started there as a support technician, before getting promoted to run the technical support team.
In my technical role, I observed there was nobody acting as a liaison between the client-facing teams and the software engineering department. The features that were being built simply didn’t have enough client-facing input, so I championed the much-needed role of product manager. I stepped into the gap and soon created the Product team, becoming part of the senior management team at Awin in the role of Product Director. Then in 2012, I became Business Intelligence Director after being asked to dedicate myself to data analysis. This was key because it gave me a chance to see what was happening across the performance and affiliate marketing industry.
Julius, please share your story before meeting Chris?
I was a normal schoolkid in Nigeria, always interested in science. But with the system there, opportunities and connections are limited. I could never settle for not reaching my full potential, so I moved to the UK to further my education.
I didn’t have a lot of support, so I took a course that I could afford in software engineering. After graduating in 2008, I joined Awin and that’s where I met Chris. In 2014, I left to work at Third Bridge Group – a financial research firm – and that was around the same time Chris approached me. I realised that we had the skill-sets to solve a major problem for retailers, so I quickly got started with building the MVP.
Where did the idea for Uniqodo come from?
CG: In 2013, I was at a conference for Awin, listening to people talk about the challenges they were facing around discount codes; they were leaking to all sorts of places, ending up on forums, other marketing campaigns were getting disrupted and brands were losing revenue – basically it was out of control.
There was talk about single-use codes, but nobody was really doing it. Perhaps it was a lack of capabilities of in-house systems or eCommerce platforms, but there clearly wasn’t enough conviction to tackle the issue.
I mulled over the challenge and the opportunity for a single-use, secure voucher code platform for ecommerce brands. I knew it needed to be simple, not complicated. After giving it a lot of serious thought, I left Awin to focus on developing it properly.
Looking back through my network to find someone to take the technical lead, Julius was the natural choice. We’d worked together at Awin, sat a couple of desks away from each other. And when I decided to forge ahead with the development, I called on him to become my co-founder.
How did the business evolve from the initial idea?
CG: We started quite quickly. For about seven or eight months, Julius and I met in coffee shops during weekends and evenings to develop the platform and the company.
I left Awin to focus on it fully in May 2014, before Julius joined me in the autumn of the same year. By February 2015, we knew we needed help to commercialise the business, so we brought in David Hall to work with me on business development, sales and marketing.
We moved into offices in Shoreditch in May 2015 for six months to get started, but found a home in Croydon and become part of Sussex Innovation Centre (SINC) renting offices in their hub and had a number of graduates from Sussex University come and work with us.
In early 2018, we hired our Client Success Manager and we’ve now grown to a team of ten.
What do you feel has shaped Uniqodo’s company culture?
CG: We both had experience of working in places where processes and rules get in the way of getting things done. So we focused on creating a company in which procedures never limited what we could deliver for our clients. We always strive to turn things around quickly for our client and yes, some processes are needed for this but never beyond reason.
JS: We also want our working environment to be one that people want to be part of. It’s important that people are happy about coming to work when they wake up in the morning.
How does Uniqodo make it easy for clients to work with them?
JS: Our clients say we’re agile, with a great development team who respond promptly. We’re proud of that.
CG: We’ve taken an innovative approach to activating our technology on ecommerce websites. We’ve kept it very simple, so when a company approaches us, there’s no need for them to engage their own software engineers or add it to the software development list. We give them something they can use to improve their business which can be done by a marketing manager, no technical know-how needed.
And your vision for Uniqodo’s future?
CG: We want to win more clients, hire more staff and reinvest revenues in growing the team to deliver the right services to our clients. We already have an incredibly strong client list. We’ll continue enabling them to control their promotions, develop more profitable marketing campaigns and drive their businesses forward. It’s what we set out to do and it’s working extremely well.
JS: Since we got started, the team has worked with clients in a range of industries – including telecoms and media, retail, travel, leisure and healthcare – solving their coupon code challenges. We’re expanding the range of use cases, simply by letting brands come to us with their problems and being responsive.
Generally speaking, their concerned about improving their:
- Personalisation – where user-specific content can be unlocked by a code and deployed on email or other direct marketing channels.
- Incentivisation – loyalty and repeat purchase rewards unlocked by unique codes to track and measure response and acquisition rates.
- Segmentation – creating audiences and assigning codes to deliver targeted messaging to improve conversion and innovative ideas to develop customer loyalty.
- Control – creating and operating market campaigns using unique single-use and secure codes to prevent codes leaking online and disrupting other marketing activities and causing over-discounting
Talk to us if you need to tackle these issues too.