“Consumers want tailored experiences”: Interview with JRNI’s founder Glenn

London-based JRNI is a SaaS scheduling platform that helps companies to personalize and optimize the customer journey. With major clients like Lego, Levis and Three mobile, and now offices in Boston and Sydney, the company is zooming ahead in the customer engagement field.

Previously BookingBug, the startup went through a rebranding in May 2019, and just a few months later in August finalised a Series C round of €17.5 million.

We sat down with Glenn Shoosmith, founder and chief architect of JRNI, to get his advice for other founders on company rebranding, trends in the retail and financial services industries, and the London startup scene.

Can you walk us through the evolution of JRNI, your story, and your mission?

I founded JRNI in 2008 after scheduling a squash game became overly complex and ineffective. I looked at some e-commerce platforms for inspiration and wanted to apply their approach for online shopping to scheduling. Over the past 12 years, we’ve grown our customer roster to hundreds of leading retailers, banks, and telecommunications companies worldwide, and we’ve built out operations in Boston and Sydney – outside of our London headquarters. It’s been an incredible journey at JRNI to say the least.

JRNI is now the leading enterprise SaaS scheduling platform for businesses to personalize and optimize the customer journey. Our technology enables companies to engage customers, online to offline, via appointments, events, and queuing to deliver outstanding experiences. In other words, we add the human element into the mix. Our mission is to create exceptional experiences for our customers’ customers, while helping our customers increase loyalty and revenue.

As you recently went through a rebranding, do you have any advice for companies doing the same?

In May 2019, we decided that we needed to rebrand BookingBug to JRNI (pronounced “journey”) because we wanted to reflect our commitment to the customer journey. We also found that the connotation of “booking” in the US, as we focused on expanding our presence there, is more for travel and not for scheduling, so that created some confusion in what our business was trying to accomplish.

My advice to businesses that are considering rebranding is that if your narrative changes, like ours did, you might need to change your name to reflect it properly. If you don’t, your business might suffer. While you might fret about the lost SEO and brand recognition goodwill, it’s a Band-Aid you’re better ripping off sooner rather than later.

What differentiates you from your competitors?

There are three main areas where JRNI differs from its competitors. The first differentiator is that we’re built and designed specifically for enterprise companies. The second one is that our platform and developer extensibility allows our customers to configure and customize JRNI in ways that best fit them and their business goals. The third is that we provide insightful analytics that give clients deeper intelligence about their customers, so they can provide more personalized recommendations and service.

You are based in London. What’s it like to build a tech company there?

As an entrepreneur who was involved in the heart of the London technology community before and during the launch of the government’s Tech City initiative, I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years.

I was involved in speaking at the launch, representing the voice of startups at Number 10, and helped to create the G-Cloud initiative that allowed smaller businesses to bid for government contracts. The sector no longer gets the attention that it once did, but changes to tax incentives and assistance provided by London and Partners, as well as other government organizations, have undeniably helped to boost what was an already burgeoning ecosystem. Time will tell if we can remain the heart of Europe’s technology ecosystem outside of the European Union.

This summer we reported you raising another €5.4 million. What has been your fundraising strategy so far?

We’ve been raising funds with both US and UK investors to signal our growth and leadership on both sides of the pond. Our existing investors also participated in our latest round in August 2019, which demonstrates their commitment to our growth.

What has been one of your biggest failures, and what did you learn from the experience?

In the early days, I tried so many different routes and ways to make our business work, and it took many years to find our path to success. In the end, it isn’t one single failure, but more of many small missteps that add up, as the life of an entrepreneur goes. You have to learn from your mistakes, but also not spend too long dwelling on them.

In fact, I say my success today is a result of all the mistakes I’ve made in the past. When asked which mistakes I’d go back and change, it’s hard to say any of them because you can’t tell if the other path would have turned out better. That’s the beauty of working in technology and being an entrepreneur – you develop, iterate, learn, and grow.

How do you see the development of the retail and financial services industries, in the next 5-10 years?

There are some exciting developments happening in both the retail and financial services industries. Let’s start with retail. One of the biggest trends for the future is making better use of in-store staff – associates who can help customers both in and out of stores. Consumers want tailored experiences, and they want staff to increase their knowledge about products and services, so they can provide personalized recommendations.

Another trend that’ll increase over the coming years is the growth of click and collect, a shopping method where consumers purchase items online and retrieve them in-store. Click and collect is actually helping to bridge the gap between online and offline channels. Retailers have been seeing enormous uptake in click and collect, and, as a result, they’re reconfiguring their businesses to manage the change. Take store layouts, for example. Retailers are putting their click-and-collect areas near the back of them, so consumers have to walk through the entire store to pick up their items, which helps to increase basket size. Interestingly, industry research shows that 54% of consumers use click and collect mostly for clothing, electronics, and household items.

Switching to financial services, personalization is a key trend. Banks need to use customer intelligence to offer more strategic recommendations to consumers and strengthen their relationships with them. To provide individualized service, banks must rely on the analytics that they’ve captured in their databases. Data presents banks with complete profiles of their customers, including previous products purchased and services received, giving them holistic views into their customers’ wealth, spending habits, and communication preferences.

For example, banks can record consumers’ previous appointments and events that they’ve attended. When new products or similar services arrive in-branch, banks can reach out to customers to alert them. They can also invite them to schedule their next appointments or attend future in-branch events to expand their knowledge about current market trends or plan for financial milestones.

What is your long-term vision for JRNI? Do you intend to expand further within the U.S. and Europe?

Our long-term vision for JRNI includes continuing to maintain our market leadership in Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific and continuing to grow rapidly in those regions. As part of that vision, we’re investing in resources to expand our platform and continuing to build our developer tools and extensibility framework.