Shopping comparison site Twenga started up in the UK just six months ago and claims to already be attracting over 2m monthly unique users.
The site was launched in France in 2006 and has since expanded around Europe, with sites in Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland and other countries reaching a combined audience of over 9m users a month.
We caught up with Twenga CEO Bastion Duclaux to talk about its growth, as well as what makes his site different from the rest…
Can you tell us about Twenga?
We founded Twenga two years ago, with the aim of indexing all the retailers on the web, and to provide comprehensive product listings in each sector of e-commerce.
We started out in France, but have since expanded into seven European countries, the UK being the most recent.
Shopping comparison is a crowded market – what makes Twenga different from its competitors?
We consider Twenga to be more of a search engine than other shopping comparison sites. We aim to list as many products as we can, so listings on the site are free for the majority of merchants.
We also provide an unbiased comparison of products – our users like the way that we show products and sort them in an unbiased way, not just according to the merchant that is paying the most.
We are focused on finding the right products for users and we are totally neutral. We don’t promote any particular retailer in our ‘natural’ listings. We also have more content and more retailers than any other comparison site.
What relationships do you have with retailers?
We have 7,000 retailers on the UK site and the majority are listed free of charge on the site, and we receive no commission if users buy from them.
We have partnerships with around 500 merchants - some through a CPA-based model, others through affiliate networks.
While these partnerships do not affect the main listings on the site, we will promote them in the ‘top deals’ section of the site and allow them to create enhanced listings.
Tell me about the traffic figures - where do these numbers come from?
These are are own statistics, from Google Analytics:
We had just over 2m UK unique users in January 2008, and more than 5m in France. Since the beginning of 2007, we have experienced a monthly growth rate of more than 30%
How have you achieved this – do you have a large paid search budget for instance?
No, we don’t use any paid search at all. We have relied mainly on SEO to drive traffic to the site.
We have a very large index of categories on the site, some very small and precise so there is plenty of content there for the search engines.
We have also used PR to draw attention to the site. In addition, we have introduced email alerts for customers to notify them when the price of an item they are looking for has dropped, which also helps to drve traffic to the site.
How is the site funded?
We started out in 2006 with EU500,000 (£380,000) in angel funding, a relatively small amount.
We have just recently received EU2.6m (£2m) from UK-based private equity firm 3i which has enabled us to grow the company and develop our technology.
How long did it take to build?
We spent two years working on the technology behind the site. Our in-house team developed search and crawl technology to gather product details from retailers.
We took time creating this because we want it to be scalable – for instance, it supports multiple languages and Asian characters.
This has enabled us to index more than 25,000 retailers and we are adding around 200 extra every day at the moment.
How many are in the Twenga team?
We have a team of around 70 people, including a R&D department of 35.
Where do you get reviews from for the site?
Product reviews are crawled from other sources, both from experts and the general public. We display both but give extra weighting to the expert reviews as we think these are more authoritative and useful to Twenga’s users.
Twenga shoppers can also leave reviews of the merchants we feature on the site, but we will allow product reviews as well in future.
Is Twenga profitable?
Not at the moment, but almost. We have focused on developing the company first instead of focusing on profits. We aim to become the biggest shopping comparison site in Europe.
Do you plan to expand into the US market?
The US is a specific market, and a large one to get a hold in. We would need to index products from more than 50,000 retailers to be able to compete in the States.
This is not our focus at the moment – we prefer to enter smaller markets first where we can compete more effectively.
Moving about in the US is a way off now, we would need more funding to be able to expand there.
What’s next for Twenga?
We will be opening Russian and Brazilian versions of the site in the next few months. We also plan to develop Twenga widgets for Facebook and other social networks.