Q&A with ZIPZERO co-founder Aymeric Monod-Gayraud
ZIPZERO offers a mass market solution to the cost-of-living crisis by giving UK consumers access to a free source of funds to cover their essential monthly bills.
Via the ZIPZERO app, UK consumers earn cash every time they shop which they can use to pay down any utility bill of choice. The cash rewards are funded by advertisers (retailers and brands) who gain the ability to market directly to consumers while – simultaneously – helping them pay their bills and impacting their livelihoods.
Launched in November 2021 and based in London, ZIPZERO is on a mission to divert the £27bn spent yearly on digital advertising back into the hands of consumers – corresponding to a whopping £80 per month per UK household!
In this Q&A, Aymeric Monod-Gayraud, ZIPZERO co-founder, explains the company’s origin, its strategy for growth and the role of fintech solutions in helping to relieve the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis.
Where did the idea for ZIPZERO come from?
Aymeric Monod-Gayraud: Well, I think I can speak for all the founders when I say we’re seasoned entrepreneurs who continue to be driven by the desire to develop and apply new tech to solve widespread consumer problems.
The first tech business Marcin, ZIPZERO’s CTO, and I founded involved digitising the loyalty stamp card. This was back in 2011 in our native Poland, and we ultimately sold the business to Vodafone Poland. We found that consumers were failing to take advantage of collected rewards and savings due to the difficulty of tracking them across various brands. Our platform aggregated thousands of individual loyalty cards in one place, offering consumers the benefit of using a single app to earn, redeem and track their rewards while delivering a powerful direct-to-consumer marketing tool to retailers.
These experiences led us to realise that all consumers, irrespective of their age or where they come from, are especially interested in financial support for their most essential household expenses: utility bills. Equally, we realised that while data has overcome oil as many companies’ coveted commodity, the creators of such data – consumers – are excluded from its monetisation.
This inspired us to build ZIPZERO – a marketing platform that allows consumers to leverage their shopping data for cash rewards. In addition, they also receive highly relevant and exclusive marketing offers, allowing users to extract maximum value from day-to-day shopping. At the same time, ZIPZERO provides an efficient means for retailers and brands to use ZIPZERO’s unique understanding of user shopping preferences to directly reach their target groups, on a fully consensual basis. In order to most effectively respond to our earlier findings from Poland, we decided to tie the cash reward mechanism of our platform to utility bills – a cause that leaves a meaningful impact on households’ livelihoods.
Who is ZIPZERO for?
AMG: ZIPZERO is a mass-market solution. It is designed to be appealing to as broad a spectrum of consumers as possible.
Moreover, we’ve also placed a lot of emphasis on user experience to make sure that rewards can be extracted as easily and quickly as possible. For example, to sign up you only need an email address.
We also know that for many consumers the idea of sharing data can seem intrusive and concerning. With this platform, we’re really trying to help consumers reclaim the worth of their own data while understanding how it is being used to aid business marketing.
This allows consumers to critically assess whether the value of sharing their data is equal to their savings in utility bills – I think this platform makes a good case that it is. That’s why we only ask consumers to share more data over time, once they’ve understood the benefits and trust how it is being used.
What makes ZIPZERO unique from its competitors?
AMG: Well, first of all, our approach is unique not only in the UK but on a global scale.
Despite the whopping value of user data used by Big Tech for marketing purposes, equivalent to £27 billion in digital advertising spend, consumers have been excluded from accessing this wealth. The ZIPZERO platform is on a mission to fundamentally alter this imbalance and shift the power back into the hands of the consumer.
ZIPZERO leverages the collective value of its users’ data to negotiate greater cash rewards for consumers. Users can record their data through physical receipt scanning or forwarding digital receipts to a dedicated email address. The reason this data is so valuable to advertisers is that it offers product-level information – what people like to buy, how much each item costs, how often and where from – providing a unique understanding of consumer spending behaviour and product interests.
Additionally, this empowers our platform’s recommendation engine, ensuring an accurate matching and targeting process of marketing offers, which ultimately means that our users are very likely to actually be interested in the products they’re seeing. Therefore, those wishing to advertise on our platform are presented with a unique understanding of their target markets, as well as a direct channel of communication. Of course, this targeting is fully anonymised and consented to by the user.
In exchange for access to this formidable direct-to-consumer marketing platform, ZIPZERO negotiates with the platform’s brands and retailers, brokering cash rewards toward consumer utility bills.
Each time a user completes a transaction, they receive a percentage return back in their ZIPZERO wallet. Most importantly, users can shop at any retailer of their choice and earn rewards between 0.5-10%. These funds can be used to pay for any utility bill(s) of choice, be it gas, electricity, water, council tax, internet or mobile. In the current climate, this is extremely impactful.
What are the main business challenges you have had to overcome?
AMG: Like many businesses, our biggest challenge to date has been overcoming the pandemic.
We had just launched a Beta version of ZIPZERO and were about to embark on a new fundraising round to support our roll-out and rapid expansion… then Covid shut off all access to funding and forced us to switch to survival mode. It took us 15 months to recalibrate our business proposition to reflect the post-pandemic funding landscape, satisfy our legacy users’ expectations and plot a new pathway to profitability.
The support of our original shareholders was critical to getting back on track, which ultimately resulted in ZIPZERO’s official relaunch in March 2022.
How can fintech solutions like yours help in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis?
AMG: Fintechs generally focus on consumer empowerment and disintermediation, ensuring consumers get choice, transparency and more bang for their buck. Depending on the niche, achieving that objective can vary from reducing foreign exchange fees, reducing the barriers to investing in stocks and facilitating access to finance. Or, in our case, creating revenue opportunities for consumers by representing and empowering their position as the targets of advertising and marketing communications. That is the honest starting point for ZIPZERO.
Retailers and brands want more cost-effective and direct consumer targeting opportunities. So, why not empower consumers to expect something in return for this – allowing marketing communications and access to their valuable spending data in exchange for cash to cover their bills?
This approach will also help businesses reduce speculative advertising budgets in favour of a much more efficient and equitable alternative.
As a reference point, £27 billion is spent each year on digital advertising in the UK alone, with the bulk of this money set to land in the pockets of Big Tech (Facebook and Google in particular). And that number is rising annually.
It is precisely this sum that we are hoping to redistribute back to consumers through the ZIPZERO platform. This is the equivalent of £80 per month per household, which represents a meaningful pot of cash, especially if measured against the most recent energy price increases.
To accelerate ZIPZERO’s reach and deliver much-needed support to as many UK households as possible, we are actively reaching out to major utility firms to have them promote ZIPZERO to their customers. In doing so, utilities can direct their customers to a free source of funds to pay their bills. In parallel, we are urging retailers and brands to redirect their advertising expenditure away from Big Tech and onto our platform which enables them to achieve two desired results – (1) drive incremental sales while (2) helping their customers pay their bills and impacting their livelihoods. The value exchange delivered by our platform is the true definition of a win-win-win for all parties involved.
What is your funding strategy?
AMG: We have built and launched ZIPZERO with the backing of an exceptional group of angel investors. Having recently passed a number of important milestones, including having over 20,000 active users at the end of September, we’re executing a follow-up round that should take us to Series A funding around summer next year. Marketing partnerships with large energy utilities is our secret sauce to achieving that goal in as rapid and cost-effective a way as possible.
Once we reach our target, we expect to become an attractive target to large institutional investors whose role will be to turbocharge our growth in the UK and expand rapidly into continental Europe, among other places.
Are you looking to hire in the near future?
AMG: People are by far our most essential resource – ZIPZERO’s success is directly correlated with making key hires across all core functions. We’re actively hiring across a wide range of areas and expertise, product and technology, customer experience and data analytics.
We welcome new talent and fresh approaches with the same passion for our mission statement – empowering consumers to extract maximum value from their data and their position as the target of advertising, meanwhile, facilitating a unique marketing platform that bolsters growth for businesses and reduces the cost of essential household bills.