Conversation with Alex Preece, CEO and Co-founder of Tillo

Conversation with Alex Preece, CEO and Co-founder of Tillo

Mark Beresford
February 2, 2022

Alex Preece, CEO and Co-founder of Tillo, recently spoke with Mark Beresford (Director, London). During their conversation, Alex described the digital rewards, incentives and gifting market and the Tillo platform. Alex and Mark also discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the employee rewards and incentives market and the significant growth this market is likely to experience in the next 4 to 5 years.

1. Please give us an overview of Tillo and your different products/services?

Tillo is the rewards, incentives and gifting platform for fast-growth organisations wanting to acquire new customers, retain existing ones, and unlock loyalty with digital gift cards.

We do this by connecting the world’s most loved brands to our partners through one award-winning API platform with unrivalled user experience across 34 markets and 16 currencies, simply plugin and go.

We provide access to an unparalleled and growing international range of 2,000+ brands and the most complete API in the industry, seamlessly and securely integrating rewards into customers’ own products and services.

2. What inspired you to start the company?

When we founded Tillo we wanted to build a system that can help businesses and their customers and employees all over the world feel rewarded.

Through our own experience of buying gift cards in bulk, we found that the industry is very fragmented and fraught with lots of manual processes and spreadsheets.

Before Tillo, the customer/employee would often have to wait days to receive their gift cards, there were regular stock issues and difficulties managing each brand relationship, which meant incentives and rewards were limited to a restricted number of retailers – the whole process was difficult to scale.

Our main goal was to simplify the process for businesses and retailers that work in this industry; by making it simple to send out rewards and incentives instantly, we can help retailers sell more and businesses create more loyal customers and employees.

So we created the underlying infrastructure to enable these businesses and retailers to integrate with each other quickly, easily, and at scale. Now they only need one contract and one integration.

3. How does Tillo differentiate itself in a crowded market of gift card providers?

Firstly, our network of retail partners is unrivalled, and many of these brands are exclusive to our network. I’d also say our scale of distribution is key to our success; we processed nearly $1bn in sales in 2021 via partnerships with organisations such as PayPal, Honey, Klarna, and BT.

And secondly, what separates Tillo from other digital gift card providers is that we put our user experience first, making rewarding a delight from start to finish.

There are a couple of ways we’re able to deliver such a standout user experience:

Our product vision is key. We’re continually evolving our platform and making it better; a lot of thought goes into making our platform simple, easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. We have the most complete API in the industry, and it’s easy for our partners to integrate their platforms with ours.

It also comes down to team culture and building a high performing team – our team is great at building relationships with our partners. We also have some core values that we look at when hiring; we try to attract self-aware, collaborative employees and are all about creating delight.

4. How has COVID impacted the Tillo way of working and business?

We were growing at quite a pace before the pandemic, and remote working was already something we were starting to embrace.

Currently, our office space can only accommodate half of the team (and it’s great to see some of the team back in the office part of the week) but we’re very good at collaborating remotely, celebrating success and recognising our employees which helps us keep our momentum.

The digital gift card industry as a whole has shown resilience throughout the pandemic and it’s been a period of growth for Tillo. Our face value sales (FVS) grew 117% in 2021 vs 2019.

In fact, we’ve just produced our “Evolution of Digital Gift Cards” report, which shares key trends from the last 3 years, based on Tillo data.

5. How do you see the digital gift card market evolving in the next few years?

The future of the global digital gift card industry looks bright; it’s already estimated to be worth over $1 trillion and is expected to reach $2.7 trillion by 2027.

If we focus on the UK alone, the gift card industry is expected to grow by 10.3% this year to reach $0.9 billion by the end of 2022 and will continue growing to reach $1.3 billion by 2026.

This certainly aligns with what we’re seeing at Tillo; we processed over £700 million in face value sales in 2021.

B2B accounts for around 75% of the gift card market in the UK and this is what we’re addressing. Following the COVID pandemic, we’ve seen more employee welfare and wellness companies emerging worldwide to keep employees engaged and happy remotely – I think employee rewards will continue to be a key driver as we see more businesses adopt a hybrid model and as employers look to retain top talent.

Affiliate is also driving growth in the market; consumers are making use of cashback providers like Honey, TopCashback and Quidco to earn points on their purchases – which they can cash out onto digital gift cards.

6. Where do you see key areas of growth?

There are several interesting and evolving use cases for digital gift cards (or branded currency) that are emerging – from crypto cashout to affiliate marketing, Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) and beyond.

What makes digital gift cards so much better at driving loyalty and growth than cash is that they create a lasting memory rather than disappearing into someone’s bank account to be spent on bills – recipients are more likely to spend a gift card on something special or that’s more of a treat, and more likely to talk about it to their friends. It’s all about the delight factor.

Any business that needs to reward and create loyal customers can benefit from digital gift cards.

7. What are your hobbies?

I love fitness and my family; that said, with three young kids, I don’t have much free time other than early in the morning to workout! I really enjoy Audible, so I listen and read as much as I can.

I’m also a huge fan of UFC, to say nothing of my love of coffee and cake – I’m trying to single-handedly sample all of Brighton and Hove’s cafes… which is no mean feat.

8. What are your long-term personal goals?

I’ve achieved more than I could have dreamed of since leaving the British Army, and seeing Tillo become a truly international company is one of my top long-term goals.

From a more personal perspective, I’d include completing an Ironman, running an Ultra, and spending more time with my kids – ensuring I don’t miss them growing up.

9. What are you reading at the moment?

The Culture Map by Erin Meyer. She explores how leaders can navigate the complexities of cultural differences and manage international teams more effectively.

The content of this article does not reflect the official opinion of Edgar, Dunn & Company. The information and views expressed in this publication belong solely to the author(s).

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