Charles, a Berlin-based startup that offers “conversational-commerce” SaaS for businesses wishing to sell on WhatsApp and other chat apps, has raised € 6.4 million in funding.
Led by Accel and HV Capital, the seed funding will be used by the company to scale and meet existing demand for its conversational commerce platform.
Launched in 2020 by Artjem Weissbeck and Andreas Tussing after the duo conducted a year-long experiment in a WhatsApp store, Charles allows businesses to sell products and services through WhatsApp and other chat apps in order to “increase conversion rate, customer loyalty and ultimately revenue ”.
SaaS connects APIs from chat apps, such as WhatsApp and Messenger, with store and CRM systems, such as Shopify, SAP, and HubSpot, all delivered through a user-friendly interface. The idea is to make it easier for businesses to meet their customers on the channels they already use and bridge the gap between sales inquiries and support, and actual conversions.
“The ‘traffic’ and with it the ‘conversion’ will move exponentially from the streets (retail) and browser / native apps to chat apps,” Weissbeck says. “Thus, conversational commerce will be the third major pillar of commerce, bringing together all channels and unlocking all the potential for personalization through the unique identification of customers via their phone number.”
This transition, says the founder of Charles, creates “huge challenges and opportunities” for companies in terms of designing the customer journey and the technology stack, which to date – outside of Asia – has been primarily designed around online stores and email.
“Ultimately, our technology provides the operating system for businesses to meet this challenge,” adds Tussing. “The core of our software integrates chat applications with boutique / CRM backends into an intuitive interface that puts the human chat sales agent at the center, supported by chatbots and AI.”
Luca Bocchio, partner at Accel, says conversational commerce is emerging as a “critical channel for brands” and is a trend that will reshape the way brands interact with customers. [This is] paving the way for the emergence of potential new category definition tools, ”he says, noting that Charles has the potential to be one of those tools.
“When we talk to potential customers, it’s mostly existing customer service tools like Zendesk that are starting to add chat apps as an additional channel,” Weissbeck says, when asked to cite direct competitors. “These tools are generally built on a ‘ticketing’ logic, optimized to resolve customer requests as quickly as possible and with a clear focus on service cases, not sales.”
In contrast, Weissbeck says Charles is built on a “flow” logic, showing the interaction with the customer as an ongoing conversation and an end-to-end relationship – the same way the customer sees it.
“Additionally, we integrate deeply into store / CRM backends to make it easy for agents to sell products and create carts or contracts – all in a very intuitive, design-driven interface that’s fun to use. use for the agent and puts it in the center, ”Tussing says. “Supported by chatbots, not replaced”.
Meanwhile, the revenue model is pretty straightforward: companies pay a monthly base fee to cover Charles’s fixed costs and on top of that, the startup makes money on conversions. “We take a small share of net sales, which allows us to be co-incentives,” Weissbeck explains.