The following is an exclusive Q&A session with Dave Wentker, CEO of Tapcentive.
Consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices and smartphones to search for products, find locations and shop. In fact, some 124.8 million US consumers, or 63% of digital shoppers, will shop on a smartphone this year. What challenges does that pose for the retail industry, especially those with physical locations and stores?
Retailers are faced with countless challenges as it relates to the mass appeal and usage of smart phones and their associated technologies. In our discussions with retailers, the most common concerns and challenges that we hear are mobile disintermediation, achieving omni-channel success; and mobile device and technology diversification including mobile redemption. As a merchant, the hardest choice you can be faced with is picking one technology solution that overcomes these threats and complexities while appealing to your customers.
What opportunities do consumers’ mobile behaviors present for businesses with physical locations to engage with mobile-equipped consumers?
Amazing things can happen when you use mobile in-location as a tool to engage your customers with incentives, loyalty program tie-ins, and interactive experiences. Everyone understands the main benefits of in-location mobile marketing, but proper execution of engagement strategies is the key to achieving the right results.. There is a delicate balance between consumer preferences and mobile engagement that needs to be maintained, otherwise consumers will tune-out or even worse - unsubscribe. The mobile phone represents a willingness to engage with customers and help them get closer to the merchant, but engaging them on their devices requires an equitable relationship.
How can consumers' dependency on mobile devices be used to better improve and influence in-store or in-venue behaviors?
What everybody’s working toward in mobile is a more personalized experience from the mobile phone. Every time a consumer fires up their phone to do something related to a merchant, there’s an inherent sharing of information, a conversation, a back-forth that takes place. All of that interactivity is about having a better experience. The more the merchant knows the customer, the more experiences are going to be tailored to the customer’s particular needs and desires.
How can Tapcentive’s solution help?
Tapcentive is a platform that has been designed to provide retailers with an entry point to connect with their customers by powering their app with an in-location engagement service that takes the complexities of device diversification out of the equation. Additionally we have introduced a solution with visible in-location devices that offer marketers interactive and immersive technology. The most important missing piece for in-location engagement has been a visual, easy-to-use jumping-off point from physical to digital. As soon as you see a Tapcentive touchpoint in the store with a sign that says, ‘tap here,’ - that’s where the magic begins and the journey starts to happen.
What other problems can Tapcentive help address?
All businesses are faced with tight budgets, timelines, and resource, but this especially holds true for retailers. With a rich set of developer tools, we have taken great strides to take the heavy lifting out of enabling apps with in-location marketing platform. We have made it possible for marketers to unleash their creativity while not unleashing their budgets.
What is the significance of the "tap" interface - the physical "tap" of a mobile device that consumers initiate to engage with Tapcentive?
At Tapcentive, we strongly believe that the mobile connection requires a physical linkage where the customer sees something visible, something tangible, becomes aware of the mobile opportunities and is trained to say, “Hey, I know how to do this.” And then they use it over and over again. Most of the in-location engagement solutions utilize geo and proximity fences that are invisible to consumers. We think there’s a time and place for these engagement models, and our platform will support hidden beacon technology in addition to our visible Touchpoints. It gets really interesting when you begin to imagine the types of innovative campaigns retailers can run using a platform that includes a cloud-based incentive system that simultaneously supports push and tap based engagement models. But to get there, consumers need to first develop trust in these types of engagements with the retailer. We believe that this trust develops best providing consumers with technology that is easy to use and gives them the opportunity to make the first move in that engagement.
What are the key benefits of an in-location solution that uses mobile to bridge the digital and physical worlds?
For retailers, promotional marketing is about changing content without changing your entire infrastructure. Examples include windows, ads, in-store promotions, display advertisements, sales and seasonal campaigns –they all use the same content in different ways. It’s the same with Tapcentive. Once you integrate our SDK with your mobile app, you just change the content in our system for promotions, rewards, loyalty tie-ins, and you get a variety of user experiences that don’t require additional investments.
What differentiates Tapcentive’s platform from other mobile targeting, location-based or geo-fencing technologies that are currently available?
First and foremost, the Tapcentive platform brings a visible, interactive technology into the physical environment – but it doesn’t stop there. As a technology provider, we shouldn’t put limits on you as a marketer, so we’ve designed an end-to-end platform includes a cloud-based content and location management system, analytics, pre-built gamification features, rules engine, mobile SDKs, and Touchpoints.
Can you talk about the decision to use both BLE and NFC technologies?
They are very complementary technologies that can deliver different kinds of benefits and capabilities from a user experience perspective. NFC is designed to work only at extremely close range (10 cm or less) and Bluetooth can be used in a variety of ways – up close, and at a distance. If you want to reach the most customers, you’ll use both of those technologies at different times and in different ways. As a merchant you should haven’t to adapt your marketing to the limitations of any one technology; you need to use all of the technologies your customers are using.
How can Tapcentive support brands’ existing mobile apps? Doesn’t it compete with them?
Our solution is a complete B2B solution and we have no intent on being an ingredient brand within any of our client’s deployments. Our sole purpose is to create a technology platform for a brand to bridge the gap between mobile and mortar so they can drive more door swings, increase dwell time, and increase purchase conversion rates.
What kinds of marketing offers and in-store campaigns does Tapcentive support? Is there anything which can’t be done via the Tapcentive platform?
We provide a set of campaign templates that we call incentives that are easily customized and configured. These incentives can be randomized rewards, sweepstakes, treasure hunt, coupon, instant-win gift card, gamification, random rewards, etc. Marketers can apply business rules such as tap limits and determine what reward content or experience they feel is best for their campaigns or clientele.
What kind of data can Tapcentive provide to brand marketers? Can external, third-party data sources be added to the Tapcentive mix for even richer customer insights?
Data that we provide is generated as a result of using the system, and it’s all about tracking every single event that involves a consumer, their mobile device and their interactions with our platform – did someone interact, when did they interact, what incentives were distributed. We haven’t explored third-party data integrations yet, but we’re certainly open to it. We want to take the lead from our customers about what they need before going down that path. It’s important to point out that our system does not collect or store personally identifiable information. We’re relying on the merchants and the users of their system to know who the actual customers are, and they can link the data from our system to the CRM or customer account data, but we’re not collecting or storing customer data.
What was the impetus for launching Tapcentive?
From our own experience in working with mobile commerce around the world, we know the importance of getting consumers comfortable with mobile technology, and something that is intuitive and intentional on the part of the customer is the best way to start. Let them choose to do it. If it’s a comfortable and satisfying experience for them, they’ll come back and do it over and over and over again. We didn’t see good solutions for this kind of approach to in-location marketing and engagement so we set out to build a platform that met this market need.
What impact can Tapcentive have on a brand marketer’s in-location customer engagement?
As a brand marketer, you rely on consumer awareness and above-the-line marketing spend. You’re telling customers explicitly what you want them to do every day in terms of coming to your location with a call to action to make purchases. Tapcentive is built to extend that awareness, and provide an explicit link between your above-the-line marketing campaigns and promotions to mobile customers’ actions in-location. We believe this link can significantly improve the ROI merchants are making in mobile and do so in a way that is an intuitive link between customers’ digital and physical worlds.