Software SMB expects five times ROI with social eCommerce tool

Flaunt It Social Commerce is a new 10-man media company and part of the IQ Information Management Group. The company provides a way for businesses to turn their customers into trusted brand advocates on Facebook. It’s a concept that was conceived after IQ Cloud Consulting had a discussion with customers about the potential of social media sites to promote their brands effectively. The software - based on the Windows Azure platform - was developed and deployed in just three months, and the company expects to achieve five times its return on investment in 2011.

“Windows Azure was critical in helping us deliver a scalable, competitive service, generating an excellent return on investment in just a few weeks.” Matt Quinn, Director, IQ Cloud Consulting.

The IQ Information Management group of companies delivers software solutions for businesses of all sizes, and counts several United Kingdom Fortune 500 businesses among its customers. In December 2010, IQ Cloud Consulting - a division of the company - created a software product called Flaunt It. Built on Windows Azure, Flaunt It provides satisfied customers with the option of showing their purchases to friends - through Facebook - immediately after completing their online transactions. Matt Quinn, Director, IQ Cloud Consulting, says: “At the end of a purchase, a customer receives a message saying, ‘Now would be a great time to flaunt your purchase.’ If the customer agrees, a picture and description of the purchase is posted onto his or her Facebook wall. For example, if you bought a bike from an online retailer, the information shown on Facebook will include a picture and details of the bike - the brand, where you bought it, a bit about the company that sold it to you, and a link to the product on the retailer’s site.”

The idea for Flaunt It emerged out of a panel discussion Quinn and his team had, after talking to customers about the potential of social media to enhance brand awareness. Quinn says: “Research shows that people trust their friends’ recommendations of products more than they trust any other form of advertising, so social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter represent an excellent opportunity for enhancing brand awareness and attracting new customers. Our discussion focused on ways technology can make it easy for customers to become brand advocates.”

Solution

IQ Cloud Consulting was quick to seize the opportunity to build a new revenue stream, and dedicated four people to develop Flaunt It over a period of less than a month. The team based the software on the Windows Azure platform, and, within 20 days, it had identified the business opportunity, created a concept, and piloted a prototype. Quinn says: “With Windows Azure, you can develop and test an application in days, so creating a prototype is quick and easy.”

His team took advantage of Windows Azure support for web and worker roles to ensure that the application ran seamlessly and cost effectively. “One of the great things about Windows Azure is that it’s possible to configure an application to achieve the performance you want. With traditional hosting you have to do a lot of testing and analysis to decide what power you need, and how many servers you require. But with Windows Azure, computing power and server roles are adjusted to ensure the application performs well regardless of the number of users. You never under or over cater provisioning. Ultimately, it costs less and works better,” says Quinn.

Windows Azure is financed on a pay-per-use basis and included as part of a Flaunt It customer’s operational expenses. Quinn says: “Flaunt It is charged on a subscription basis at £500 per month, which includes 500 ‘free’ flaunts. If the brand is flaunted more than 500 times, flaunts are charged on a volume basis.” For example, 500 to 1,000 flaunts cost 80 pence per flaunt, but the cost decreases as the volume of flaunts increases.

Flaunt It attracted its first two customers in March 2011, three months after the concept was conceived. By September 2011, Quinn predicts that it will have signed another 20 customers.

Benefits

IQ Cloud Consulting now has a healthy new revenue stream achieved with very little initial investment. Quinn expects Flaunt It to generate significant revenues for the group and has created an independent company - Flaunt It Social Commerce - to continue developing and marketing the product. “Windows Azure was critical in helping us deliver a scalable, competitive service generating an excellent return on investment in just a few weeks,” he says.

Excellent return on investment

Quinn says: “By the end of 2011, our return from Flaunt It will be around five times the investment we put into its development, and the cost of configuring new customers.” The innovative cloud-based software is an excellent example of how technology can support organisations to transform ideas and concepts into new business. “Windows Azure is critical to the Flaunt It business model. If we’d had to purchase hardware or provision services in any other way we wouldn’t have started it,” says Quinn.

Fast time to market. Flaunt It went from concept to deployment in just three months. “We didn’t have to decide how to pay for hosting, or arrange for provisioning—we just released the prototype for a few days while our customers provided feedback, and then deployed it for general release in March 2011,” says Quinn. The streamlined development and deployment process meant that IQ Cloud Consulting was able to take advantage of a great idea and go to market quickly.

Cost-effective, scalable platform. Flaunt It Social Commerce can tailor the software to suit customer requirements. “Already we’ve identified ways of adding functionality. For example, we can integrate the software with Microsoft Dynamics CRM so customer ‘flaunts’ can be tracked. This provides businesses with more information about their customers’ behaviour, and could be the basis for customer promotions, incentives for flaunting products, and allocating rewards,” says Quinn.

Learn more about Flaunt It

Learn more about Windows Azure