New startup uses receipts as a marketing channel | Fin24
 
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New startup uses receipts as a marketing channel

Oct 16 2015 16:10
Jon Pienaar
E-commerce entrepreneur Adii Pienaar's second vent

E-commerce entrepreneur Adii Pienaar's second venture Receiptful recently received angel funding worth R6.5m. (Picture supplied)

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Sitting in his home on a leafy golf estate in the Paarl winelands, serial dotcom entrepreneur Adii Pienaar gets frank about what it takes to create a successful digital business, and why doing this the second time around is different.

I think the biggest change between the first time and every subsequent time is that the first time you’re ignorant, so you don’t know where the pitfalls are,” Pienaar says candidly.

It’s a warm winter’s day and a thirty-year-old Pienaar is sitting at his dining room table in his chinos and denim shirt. His hair is tied back in a manner that’s been appropriated by hipsters, but Pienaar is no trendoid. He’s a boerseun who studied at Stellenbosch University and fell in love with technology at a very young age.

“The second time around you’re more aware and you realise there are a helluva lot of things that could be going wrong,” Pienaar says of his new venture.

“Plus you’re armed with theoretical frameworks like ‘don’t do this, but do that. This means that ‘analysis paralysis’ is a big risk,” the founder of Receiptful admits, and then pensively adds: “I definitely have fears. I don’t think fear of failure ever goes away.”

Pienaar says he is not someone who naturally enjoys risk. “I just accept risk as part of the job and I try and mitigate it as efficiently and intelligently as possible. But there’s definite fear. Nobody wants to fail. Nobody wants to make mistakes,” he says.

In 2008, at the age of 22, Pienaar started his first real business, called WooThemes, together with Mark Forrester and Magnus Jepson. WordPress is a free and open source content management system that allows even the least technical person to get a good-looking website up and running quickly and easily, at little or no cost.

WooThemes rode the crest of the growth wave created by WordPress by pioneering the concept of paid-for themes within the free WordPress platform. In short, themes enable WordPress users to easily and attractively modify the look and design of their WordPress blog or site.

In 2011, when customers requested a theme that could be used for e-commerce — allowing websites to incorporate an online store — the three decided to create WooCommerce.

Rather than a bespoke theme, WooCommerce ‘plugs into’ any WordPress site and enables it to provide an e-commerce solution that can accommodate anything from a one-man site selling T-shirts and mugs on the side, to a fully-fledged e-commerce site with an inventory of hundreds of items.

It was the right solution at the right time and WooCommerce rapidly gained favour among WordPress users. In 2013, Pienaar exited WooThemes with the aim of taking some time off and de-stressing. But he still kept track of what was happening in the e-commerce space and started considering what his next venture might be. 

In early 2014, the entrepreneur stumbled upon an article about “the missed marketing opportunity of email receipts” and had an epiphany. “I felt like this was the perfect idea where I could leverage my past experience, skills and connections in terms of building WooThemes – and part of that journey WooCommerce as well,” Pienaar says. 

After doing research and discovering that this was a novel idea, Pienaar dived in and started his next business in the e-commerce environment. Within six weeks he had outsourced the work of writing the software to coders and was presenting an early working prototype to users. 

The software was built to ‘plug into’ a popular payment processor in the US and Europe called Stripe. A US-based company, Stripe is an online payments processor that manages billions of dollars’ worth of transactions annually for both individuals and companies.

“They’ve been building an ecosystem of third-party applications on top of their platform,” says Pienaar, explaining why he chose their ecosystem to launch on.

Since then, Receiptful has been developed for WooCommerce and Shopify – the latter possibly being WooCommerce’s biggest competitor and one of the larger e-commerce platforms currently available. 

What is Receiptful? In short, online merchants hand over the management of their receipts to Receiptful. Aside from the necessary sales information, there is space on a receipt for a merchant to engage with a customer.

Pienaar explains: “What we’ve found is that receipts actually have an open rate of about 70%, which is – depending on who you want to believe – anywhere from three to five times the open rate of general email marketing for the e-commerce sector.”

This article originally appeared in the 9 September edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here

e-commerce  |  entrepreneur
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