Poq, the London-based startup that offers a SaaS to make it easier for retailers to launch and maintain a consumer-facing shopping app, has raised £9.5 million in Series B funding. Leading the round is Smedvig Capital, with participation from previous backers Beringea, and Revolt Ventures. It brings the total amount raised by Poq to £16.5 million since the company was founded in 2011.

A fairly early entrant into the so-called ‘apps-as-a-service’ space, Poq’s pitch is that it enables retailers — with a particular focus on ‘pureplay’ or multichannel brands — to create their own e-commerce app at a fraction of the price of using a traditional app development agency or doing it all in-house. The company counts the likes of House of Fraser, Missguided, Pretty Little Thing, Holland & Barrett, Hotel Chocolat, Fragrance Direct, and Made.com as clients.

“Our platform is the result of years of focus on retail apps and is proven to increase conversion rates and revenue,” Øyvind Henriksen, CEO and co-founder at Poq, tells TechCrunch. “New code is rolled out every week and major releases delivered every quarter”.

This, he says, is often in contrast to the way retailers engage with a traditional app agency, which typically sees a lot of work and investment go into a version one, only for the app to be left unloved as each update can be costly and has unnecessary friction.

The other option is to not bother with an app and just have a mobile website, but Poq claims these don’t perform well in retail and that apps are proven to provide a better shopping experience, which leads to much better engagement, retention and conversion.

“While everyone would love to have an app, the reality is that apps are typically hard to build and maintain. By using Poq’s SaaS approach, retailers get the product faster to market, keep it up to date easier, [and] have the ability to plug into an ecosystem of pre-built integrations to technology providers,” says Henriksen.

The Poq CEO describes Poq’s typical customer as a large pureplay or multichannel retailer. “Our first major customer was House of Fraser,” he says, “and that’s when we proved ourselves as an enterprise-ready software provider. From then we’ve seen multichannel customers such as Holland and Barrett and House of Fraser use apps as a new digital channel, the apps also power their loyalty programs in the stores”.

Meanwhile, Poq says the new funding will help the company drive growth in the U.K. and Europe, as well as in the U.S., where it plans to open offices. I’m told the U.S. currently makes up 20 percent of Poq’s revenue.

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