Interviews, insight & analysis on Ecommerce

How We Built it: Executive Chairman/Founder Dominic Allonby of Fruugo

Give us the elevator pitch. Tell us about your brand.

Fruugo is a highly diversified global online marketplace currently helping nearly 1,800 online retailers sell products to approaching 3 million shoppers a year in 42 countries, 31 currencies and 28 languages

Our mission is to enable online retailers everywhere to sell to shoppers anywhere. Uniquely, Fruugo reduces the complexities of cross-border trade by offering a fully integrated, localised offer for retailers and shoppers around the world. For shoppers, we offer retailers’ product listings into their local language and offer purchases in their local currency. Meanwhile, retailers achieve sales and receive payment for orders in their local or preferred currency from shoppers in countries they wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.

Our marketplaces contain a massive and diverse range of popular brands and products, sourced from retailers all over the world.

What inspired you to set up your company? 

Fruugo was founded in 2006 by Finnish technology entrepreneurs, who invested very heavily in the technology and Intellectual Property assets to create a platform that had significant international potential. Because they knew I had already built a successful UK-based marketplace they asked me to run the business, and so in 2010 we combined the UK and Finland operations.

Subsequently, with my business partner Darren Naylor, I acquired the whole business in 2012. The opportunity to own a global marketplace and its incredible technology was simply too good to miss!

Since then, we have completed several rounds of private fundraising in the UK, and have continued to successfully develop the technology platform creating a truly global, fast-growing and profitable cross-border marketplace. 

What was your biggest challenge in year one? 

It now seems difficult to believe, but nine years ago we found it surprisingly challenging convincing people here in the UK that our business plan was doable worldwide… it seemed that the potential scale of one single global platform for online shopping was almost too daunting for some to grasp!

What would you say has been your biggest marketing success?

While not a single point of success, our marketing capability is one of the most important parts of our business and has continued to go from strength to strength in recent years. 

Today, we specialise in generating traffic from ‘long-tail’ searches on popular search engines around the world – obviously Google is a major one, but we also work with others. These user searches are typically unique queries with low frequency and enormous variety. Shoppers are looking for very specific products, and because of our vast product coverage (over 33 million SKUs currently) and our decade-long international online marketing expertise, we are able to match them to our retailers’ relevant products around the world.

What has been the biggest mistake you made? 

I have always found that anything which doesn’t work out the way we initially hoped or planned is ultimately helpful as it informs decision-making processes for the future. This means that we have always welcomed mistakes at Fruugo. There isn’t one “big” one that springs to mind, just a series of “try, fail, learn, adapt” moments along the way. As JFK memorably said, we choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are difficult. Admittedly, he was aiming for the moon… we are only targeting the world!

Tell us about your plans for the future?

Combining the accelerating global shift towards online shopping with Fruugo’s diverse retailer base, extensive product catalogue and wide geographical reach, we believe that there is significant potential to further grow the business, and rapidly. 

As part of this growth, we plan to continue investing in our marketing function, expanding into new countries, and increasing the number of retailers and SKUs available to customers. By 2024, we aim to have more than 10,000 online retailers using our platform to serve customers (in their own local currencies and languages) around the world.

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