September 2016 has undoubtedly been rich on news and initiatives in the financial services industry with FinovateFall 2016 in New York being a crown jewel of this month. The event has revealed a specter of innovations in development and gave an opportunity for bright entrepreneurs to present their solutions to experienced professionals and critics.
While every participant received well-deserved credit, the Best of Show award revealed “the tip of the spear, the vanguard of a movement whose innovations will shape the way we save, spend, invest, and engage the financial world for years to come.” Among the teams named Best of Show were Co-founders of a mobile gifting platform Swych, Deepak Jain and Robert Sabella, who showcased the simplicity of mobile gift card transactions using both GiftBots as well as the mobile app along with the unique experiences offered by the service such as cash bonuses and instant “swyching” of a received gift to any merchant brand.
Following the leaders of the global financial technology industry, the LTP Team had the pleasure of interviewing Deepak Jain, CEO and Founder of Swych, which makes it easy for users to buy, send, upload, redeem, and exchange gift cards instantly and conveniently from their mobile devices. Deepak shared information on Swych’s solution as well as insights on the gifting industry and the challenges it faces. More interesting details to follow in the transcript:
LTP Team: Deepak, first of all, congratulations for being recognized as one of the Best of Show winners and thank you for an engaging presentation at FinovateFall 2016. Could you please provide us a brief introduction to Swych and the solutions that you bring to market.
Deepak Jain: Thank you! Swych is a mobile gifting platform that has pioneered the concept of digital "Swychable Gifts" that are instant and secure. Our promise is that every gift sent using the Swych platform is relevant and useful for the recipient. It is a perfect gift every time as Swych allows the gift recipient to choose where the gift is spent and when. When a gift is received, the recipient can instantly redeem it or save it in the app for the perfect shopping moment. When the user is ready to spend a saved gift, it can be instantly Swyched to any merchant brand and the gift card is available and usable right from the smartphone.
We have over 100 brands already supported and more being added every week. The Swych gifting platform can be accessed by consumers using our iOS and Android apps and by businesses using our simple "Gifting as a service" API.
LTP Team: What are the main issues plagued in the traditional gifting and incentive industry?
DJ: The gifting and incentive industry has traditionally ignored the recipient of the gift. That is not surprising because of two reasons:
- Gift cards, the most popular form of monetary gifts, have been mostly delivered in plastic form and it's hard to push innovations on plastic, and,
- The industry has only targeted the sender because they pay for the gift.
But because of these two reasons, the entire gifting process has been plagued with old technology and bad user experience. Buying a plastic gift is time-consuming and you still don't have an assurance that your gift is useful for the recipient.
As a recipient, when you receive a merchant gift card, if you don't shop at that merchant, you are mostly out of luck. Yes, you can sell that gift card at several card exchanges out there today but the process is usually clunky, not instant and you lose a lot of value.
Businesses are adopting digital technology to issue their incentive products to employees and subscribers but the adoption has been slow and today's available digital distribution solutions are still only serving barcodes in email or web pages mostly and those are still plagued by the same issue that the recipient may not find the gift selected for him by someone else very useful.
LTP Team: How is the digital gifting/incentives industry improving this?
DJ: There is really very little reason for gift cards to be plastic. They serve no purpose, sort of like the boarding pass or an event ticket. There is so much more opportunity for the industry to use digital technology to improve every facet of gifting.
A mobile user can be identified better and incentive providers can use social information about the user to improve his gifting experience. Latest mobile software technology provides better security via encryption and tokenization and transactions can be made more useful by leveraging location and other contextual data available on smartphones. Providers are able to use device and network data for better fraud protection and can take advantage of the quick time to market to implement new services like splitting a received gift into multiple smaller gifts or group gifts from multiple users into a single gift for someone. This is being made even more compelling by the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning now possible easily on smart operating platforms like Android and iOS. These are just some of the examples of how we are leveraging modern technology to totally reinvent gifting and offering a unique new opportunity in this market for our customers. This is what Swych is all about.
LTP Team: What are the key challenges that digital incentives face? What are your views on the competitive landscape for digital incentives?
DJ: Every business wants to offer incentives. Incentives are a great way to reward employees or subscribers. Incentives are also a great way to redeem loyalty points or miles or cash back rewards that have accumulated. And digital gift cards are the perfect way to deliver incentives because essentially, giving cash is not considered a great way to deliver an incentive or reward but you still want the recipient to receive monetary value in the reward.
The key challenges faced by the incentive industry then is exactly how to leverage the gift card product and provide a great user experience to the recipient. Today's recipient does not want his reward in an envelope mailed to him that is received multiple days later. And today's techno-savvy generation also do not want their rewards delivered to an email address because there is too much marketing promotion, spam and useless junk in people's emails.
Businesses can see an uplift in usefulness and customer loyalty if incentives are delivered where their users are having a connection with them. That is typically happening in their mobile apps and their social media channels. That is where the incentive needs to be delivered.
Even employees are interacting with their colleagues and associates today in platforms like Skype, Slack and Salesforce. This is where an employee incentive gift needs to be delivered. We see that most of the competition today does not have a platform that can do all of that. If a business wants to implement this capability, there are many setup delays, brand and bank approvals that make the process slow and cumbersome and complex. And even if they go through a complex and expensive setup, they still don't have access to the modern technology to deliver the gifts instantly where their users are, in a fashion that their users want.
Swych offers a very simple API for businesses to utilize our modern technology, analytics to build high-quality reward and incentive experiences in mobile apps and social media channels while having access to hundreds of gift card brands. And most importantly, our incentive customers can make their rewards perfect and relevant to their user by making it Swychable to the brand their users' want.
LTP Team: In terms of target customers, from which segments do you see robust demand for your services?
DJ: Gifting is a financial transaction that everyone engages in at multiple times in a year. We see the Swych app being adopted by smartphone-savvy consumers, especially the demographics that receives the most amount of gifts, which are the teens and the millennials. We expect that these groups will then demand the older generation to use Swych to send them "Swychable" gifts so that they can have the redemption choice that they want.
We are also bringing Swych gifting bots (GiftBot) to social media and conversational platforms like Facebook, Skype, Amazon Alexa, iMessage, Hangouts and Siri. We expect users who utilize such digital assistants to love sending their gifts using Swych Giftbots. We expect businesses to use our Gifting as a Service API to utilize the breadth of modern technology and features I spoke about and implement them in a matter of days in their own apps and in their own social media channels.
LTP Team: What are the major drivers for digital incentives and what is the major strategy to enhance Swych’s reach?
DJ: We spoke about the major drivers earlier. Swych will be offering a very simple sandbox and free API for anyone to integrate Gifting-as-a-Service in their own apps, their own websites and their own social media channels (via Giftbots). And still utilize the award-winning user experience we have built along with the modern technology under the hood that we spoke about with respect to data analytics, connectivity, security, fraud protection and innovative use cases. Swych also has a burgeoning campus brand ambassador program and affiliate marketing program through which we expect a strong viral growth of the service and brand.
LTP Team: How has the response been so far on the mobile app and the GiftBot platform that was presented at FinovateFall 2016?
DJ: It has been great. We are pleased to get a good amount of market validation to see businesses and financial institutions from all sectors interested in utilizing our UX, Swychable gift use case and our Gifting-as-a-Service API to either implement gifting for the first time for their own consumers or improve the solutions they have. We also have tremendous interest from the Fintech venture investing community about our business. We have many more exciting announcements to come.
Source: FinovateFall 2016
Swych’s patent-pending, mobile-gifting platform enables users to send “Swychable” gifts from their mobile device that can be instantly redeemed for electronic gift cards from more than 100 popular brands. Swych users can instantly buy, send, regift, upload, Swych and redeem gift cards conveniently from their mobile device.
Swych was formed in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs, Deepak Jain and Robert Sabella. Product development and operations are headed by Anu Shultes who is a well-known and highly respected gift card industry expert. Marketing is headed by Stephanie Barrueto and Product Engineering by Linda Yang.
Swych is a private company funded by seasoned angel investors from the banking, financial services, payments, gifting, telecom and enterprise computing space. Swych’s headquarters is in Plano, Texas, with offices in San Francisco, California.