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By Cameron Wall

Now, more than ever before, consumers are using their smartphones not only as a communication tool, but also as their number one shopping and retail browsing precinct.

This shift in consumer behavior when it comes to mobile browsing has created what I term the Mobile Strategy Dilemma: should retailers develop a mobile application, or invest heavily in a highly responsive website?

Having both a native app strategy and an e-commerce website is a waste of money and grossly unrealistic for retailers, so a choice absolutely needs to be made. But what is the best choice? And which will work best for any given retailer?

Let’s look at the numbers. According to recent data from ComScore, smartphone apps now constitute 50 per cent of all digital media time, up a huge 44 per cent from a year ago. Mobile is now a whopping 68 per cent overall with desktop claiming just 32 per cent of digital attention.

As a society, and with advancements in technology and payment methods, we are transitioning from a ‘point and click’ world to a ‘swipe and tap’ way of life, steering away from the world of desktops to multi-channel usage. Retailers that aren’t reacting to these changes in mobile usage won’t see any online sales conversion, which is where the money lies.

This is where the Mobile Strategy Dilemma comes in. Retailers are asking: “If I invest in a native app strategy not enough people will download and use it, but if I don’t have a native mobile app I am doomed”.

You’re damned if you do, and doomed if you don’t.

Benefits of apps vs. mobile websites

Apps offer benefits that other channels simply can’t, activating location services to coincide with in-store beacons and enhance the shopping experience with the ability to communicate special offers, discounts and personalise customer service and human interaction. The unprecedented accessibility and convenience of shopping from an app doesn’t even compete with that of a desktop, with many laptop users converting to the use of iPad Pro or smartphone to conduct their online shopping activity.

While most retailers have mobile-optimised sites, shoppers are clearly converting across multiple channels. The gap between share of traffic and share of sales represents a huge opportunity for retailers who don’t see over 40 per cent of their mobile traffic converting digitally. Mobile-optimised site browsing isn’t as seamless for the online shopper, which begs for retailers to offer a richer and more convenient customer experience which can be provided in app-form.

With Facebook usage on mobile at approximately 80 per cent and Instagram at almost 100 per cent, it makes sense this is where shoppers are browsing and sharing. So why is it the lions-share of marketing spend on fixed web technology? The skills needed from retailers in order to deliver on mobile are immensely different than web, requiring development, integrations and design (UX/UI).

Today’s marketing funnel is broken into short, intent-driven moments, and marketing’s role throughout the funnel routinely extends all the way through to purchase. As customers enter mid-funnel, skip stages altogether, or move through this new funnel out of order, the business costs to retailers continue to mount and the cost of acquiring and retaining new customers grows more expensive.  In addition, managing the host of technologies that retailers have adopted to meet these challenges has significantly slowed down their ability to respond with speed to changing customer expectations and software advances.

Most retailers turn to mobile vendors due to lack of sufficient in-house mobile resources and expertise to meet their strategic goals. Forrester recently reported that 56 per cent of retailers work with several partners, including agencies, specialty vendors, and platform providers, to support integrated mobile initiatives. The issue lies in integrating and managing multiple point solutions as there are high costs associated, and they hamper the retailer’s agility in responding to changing customer expectations.

So what is the solution to this modern retail dilemma?

Retailers need to partner with specialist tech organisations in order to combat the trend. It’s about working with those that not only have the know-how, but also the connections to produce a universal shopping experience via a native app where all retailers are reachable together.

Mobile first or even mobile-only solutions will start to surface to satisfy this need, where the shopper is chaperoned all the way from discovery to purchase in-store or online. The new measure will be a pay per action model where retailers will pay for an actual sale conversion.

While the future of mobile is bright, it’s vital for retailers to move their strategy to more than optimisation allowing a seamless experience for consumers and further driving sales and traffic via their hefty investment in app technology. This will ensure greater sales, but also higher in-store conversion. A channel consumers will never be able to completely step away from.

Cameron Wall is a mobile technologist and the co-founder of RainCheck

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Cameron Wall talks tips and tricks to retain your customer base.

Many people talk about the “good old days” of retail. When you walked into a store and the shopkeeper not only knew your name and your personal story, but also your shopping preferences. You were instantly offered options when it came to colour, size and fit, the likes of which most Gen Y and Millenials will never have experienced today.

While this old-school deep personal interaction and customer experience is considered golden, it’s also something that many bricks and mortar retailers today think they can never replicate.

My opinion, however, is that there is no better time to get personal with your customers. The reason? Today the shopper controls the retailer; they decide when they purchase, where they purchase and what they want. With 90% of purchases made in store, there is a huge opportunity for retailers globally to take back some of the power and change the face of the shopping experience for consumers.

To explain why, we need to take a look at the background of online retail. In the late 1990’s when ecommerce came to fruition, the promise of being able to sit in your underwear and shop online, all while sitting at home in front of your set up of a 17″ 50 pound screen and large desktop PC was amazing. The ability to order anything you wanted saw people flocking to buying online in droves, however the reality of the experience was nowhere near as easy as the promise.

Fast forward to today where we are living in an online world, those large cumbersome PC’s have been replaced with devices that fit in the palm of the shopper’s hand (and are much more powerful). The challenge? Hardly any stores are connected in a fully integrated way, and the retailer’s strategies are still aimed at people sitting at home, browsing for bargains whilst in their underwear.

A large volume of retailers have developed and implemented strategies solely based on a fixed web approach with a responsive mobile experience and search, with social media feeding it. Time and time again, we are seeing retailers that are struggling with the value of apps, knowing that consumers won’t readily download a large number of retail based apps on their device, that in reality is just an extension of their website and offers nothing new to the user. As it stands, ecommerce only accounts for a total of 10% of all retail sales and has a five year global growth rate of just 2.9%.

Add to this, the fact that shopping cart abandonment rates are sitting at 75%-85% and there is a global total of $4.5 trillion of seemingly unwanted goods that are never purchased ($50B in Australia alone).

As it is, 90% of people say they are likely to browse online and make a purchase in store, showing the need for retail storefronts. While the shopper’s journey hasn’t changed that much from the original ‘Discover, Desire, Consider & Purchase’ pathway, that journey now takes place starting in the online world and moving to offline (O2O) AKA people are now browsing online and buying in store.

It makes sense that retailers will harness this behavior and in store shopping habits. Just like the shopkeepers that knew what you came into the store for, there is the opportunity for retailers to give the same experience to their consumers. The technology platform that will enable this and allow an unprecedented shopper experience for customers is mobile.

By the time most people enter the store, as a result of online browsing habits, they will know more about the product than ever before. They have discovered, desired and considered the purchase, then it’s the role of the shop assistant and retailer to offer the “last mile” experience. The consumer will have advance knowledge of price points, reviews and in some cases stock availability, so it is becoming increasingly challenging for the shop assistant to add value.

It’s indisputable that as a result of this browsing behavior, an ecommerce site is vital for any retailer and allows maximum opportunity for consumers to browse and understand a product. However, for stimulating desire, once the shopper leaves the site the retailer has no idea where they went.

Did they visit a store? Did they make a purchase? Where?

The main reason online shopping carts are abandoned at such a high rate is there is no way of saving items for later consideration. As a shopper you might have items in online shopping carts from many retailers and inevitably many browser tabs open on your Smartphone, however the experience is hopeless and incohesive.

The challenge for retailers is step up the plate and take control back from the shopper. If over 90% of retail sales are happening in stores, there is an untapped opportunity for retailers to look at innovation. It’s about using technology to close the sales at the point when it’s both contextual and relevant, while also building real relationships with shoppers and helping influence the sale and experience.

This will, in time allow retailers to regain control from the shopper and shift the future to ensure they once again hold the balance of power and can increase loyalty and measure data in the process. 

Cameron Wall is the CEO of RainCheck.

Read the article at Ragtrader
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Press

THE future of retail is like a bad movie sequel. This time, it’s personal.

Imagine dropping into a Myer on your way home from a busy day of work. Your wearable wristband — which has tracked your stress levels throughout the day — quietly alerts the store attendants, who greet you with a cold glass of water and offer you a seat.

As you relax, the attendant uses their tablet device to call a selection of products from the back room — products you didn’t even know you wanted — in your size and fit.

Your every interaction is tracked and analysed by the store, which carefully manages your long-term relationship to grow its share of your wallet. Whereas in the past it might have measured its success in terms of sales growth per store, now it tracks sales growth per customer. And in the face of the onslaught from online competitors like Amazon, traditional retailers will have to use every trick in the book, from data analytics to neuroscience, to keep you coming back.

“The more experiential retail becomes, the more it’s based on the emotional side of how you connect with customers, and I think emotion is playing an increasingly important role in the way stuff is sold,” Myer chief executive Richard Umbers told news.com.au.

The first “version” of that was simple advertising, but stores will have to get much more intimate to keep pressing those same buttons.

“The personal connection that is formed with the shopper as part of a relationship that can last years is actually a differentiating factor in the marketplace, where historically there has been a race to price and volume,” he said.

“[But] when you’re a premium department store, what are you really selling?

“Because everyone has your products, they’re available in the marketplace. The service component and emotional connection with the brand is one of the unique propositions that department stores can offer.”

Technology, he said, can “turbocharge” that service.

“It enables you to create those relationships from the fact that you know your customers and can build a history which you couldn’t possible hold in your head, but using technology you can do that over a period of time.”

Even right now, one of the core pillars of Myer’s $600 million turnaround strategy involves using technology to address long-held customer gripes, such as the lack of floor staff.

“We’ve rolled out 2500 iPads to our team members,” he said. “If you come in as a customer, if we haven’t got your size, haven’t got your colour, that’s enabling us to say don’t worry, we’ll have it sent to your home tomorrow.

“That’s real and it’s happening in our stores right now. What used to happen is the store assistant would go off into the back, vanish, and the connection to the customer would be lost.”

Michael Ford, CEO of whitegoods retailer The Good Guys, argues instead of simply meeting customers needs, technology will allow retailers to anticipate them.

“Historically what retailers have done, both in their merchandise and assortment planning and in their budgeting, is built it on historical, incremental growth,” he said.

“The great benefit they are deriving from data insights is they are going to be able to anticipate the needs of their customer. We’ve had 150 years of sleepy old retail — today that’s changing.”

Mr Ford said The Good Guys had even created a “sandbox store” targeted specifically at millennial customers. “It’s all about trying new concepts, new innovations, category extensions, redesigning the store, changing the fixtures, changing the paint colours, all sorts of things,” he said.

Mr Umbers and Mr Ford, who spoke at the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce Retail Lunch in Sydney on Wednesday, were focused on how technology can foster those emotional connections.

But Danny Naidoo, former chief information officer at South African retail giant Woolworths Holdings, which now owns David Jones and Country Road Group, says understanding how shoppers’ brains work will be crucial in working out how to apply that technology.

“Some of the biggest breakthroughs in neuroscience have come in the last five years, giving us a deeper understanding of human behaviour than the last 500 years,” said Mr Naidoo, who has joined the founding team of Aussie retail start-up Raincheck.

“In the next 15 years we’re going to see retailers adopting these findings.”

Simple gestures such as a reminder to buy something at a particular time, or even, bizarrely, sending shoppers a message telling them they made the right decision to buy something, may be used to “feed the customer’s wellbeing”.

“Consumerism is about pushing certain satisfaction drivers, and understanding that and what it means in a social context, I think will be a major shift,” he said.

“With the advent of wearables, and in a world where everything is connected, you could find wearables giving you a prod or a ping, or god forbid even the administration of a little dose of happiness.”

The work of neuroscientist Dr David Rock, in particular, is already being employed by some retailers. Dr Rock developed the so-called SCARF model, which seeks to explain factors that activate either a reward or threat response in the human brain.

SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. “These five domains activate either the ‘primary reward’ or ‘primary threat’ circuitry (and associated networks) of the brain,” Dr Rock writes.

“For example, a perceived threat to one’s status activates similar brain networks to a threat to one’s life. In the same way, a perceived increase in fairness activates the same reward circuitry as receiving a monetary reward.”

Denise Lee Yohn, author of What Brands Do, explained how US appliance retailer Pirch used the model to design its store experience.

When customers walk into the store, they’re greeted by a “barista of joy”, who offers a free coffee or infused water — this raises the customer’s status.

“As you’re waiting for your coffee, the barista will ask, ‘Do you have an appointment? Would you like to be toured? Or would you [want to] wander through the store?’,” Pirch CEO Jeffery Sears told Lee Yohn.

“What’s actually happening in that interchange is certainty. So you’ve created certainty about how the store works.”

By explaining the layout of the store, the barista also fulfils the customer’s need for autonomy, while relatedness and fairness come through the sales team, who “instead of using the usual sales pitches, serve free samples of food prepared by chefs using Pirch appliances”, Lee Yohn writes.

While it might sound like manipulation, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, Mr Naidoo argues.

“People in the developed world face an incredible challenge around time, but neuroscience tells us the number of ‘decision slices’ you have to make reasoned judgments during the day is limited,” he said.

“Developing these techniques to make it possible for people to make a complex decisions more quickly, or convince them they made the right decision, helps the person [through the day].”

frank.chung@news.com.au

Read the article on News.com.au.

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Press

A Sydney startup has managed to attract a major corporate player from the very market they’re trying to crack, adding a multinational CIO to its team.

RainCheck founder and CEO Cameron Wall first spotted Woolworths Holdings’ chief information office Danny Naidoo – the man who would later become his own CIO – in the keynote speakers list at the tech conference.

“We thought he’d be a good person to get in contact with,” Wall tells StartupSmart.

Late last year, Wall reached out to him an app he’d been working on that allows users to search for apparel items online, store their favourites in one central location and receive notifications when they are nearby a physical location that sells them.

This time they were in the US for another major retail tech conference.

“We had a chat in New York and Danny was very keen on getting on board and getting into it in a strategic role,” Wall says.

A few conference calls later, Naidoo agreed joined the pre-launch startup.

“I am delighted to be a part of the RainCheck team particularly in this critical pre-launch stage of the development,” Naidoo says in a statement.

“RainCheck has the ability to become the single biggest omni-channel platform for retailers.”

Wall says it didn’t take a lot of convincing on their part because Naidoo instantly understood the app and believed in the idea.

“It was a bit of an ‘aha’ moment – he got it and worked out he knows what the problems are,” Wall says.

For startups breaking into established industries like retail, Wall says it’s crucial to have expert professionals on-board with a high level of knowledge and experience in how the sector operates.

But he recommends that startups do their homework first to identify where the knowledge gaps are so they do approach the right people.

“Identify who you might need and really have a couple of causal conversations to see if you get on and if it’s the right fit,” Wall says.

It’s also important that startups are able to scale fast, raise capital and appeal to a global market if they want corporate heavyweights to jump ship.

“It’s very hard for someone to come out of the corporate world into the startup world,” he says.

HOW RAIN CHECK WORKS

While users browse through online stores, the RainCheck app lets users create an aggregated wish list of items they’re interested in.

Users simply click the “RainCheck It” icon to save them and when they approach a store they’ve liked an item in, the app sends the user a reminder.

“It’s an online to offline ecommerce platform,” Wall says.

Users can also share their lists with family and friends.

The app is connected to a growing network of more than 300 online stores.

After working in tech for more than 20 years and helping to pioneer some of Australia’s earlier internet and mobile data development, Wall discovered there wasn’t much happening with apps connecting digital and physical environments.

“There’s a lot of other tech that are online or offline,” he says.

“But there’s no one actually joining the two together.”

Though apps like Pinterest let you aggregate products on wall and Swirl digitises the in-shop experience, Wall says the bridge to make it simple to just buy things you spot online has been missing until RainCheck.

“93% of people still shop in stores,” he says.

“Ecommerce has only grown 2.3 to 2.4% in the last five years.”

Realising an opportunity to make this link, Wall began developing the app in late 2014.

After nearly nearly 18 months of development to ensure the infrastructure is robust with a user-friendly interface, Wall is now counting down the days before RainCheck is brought to market.

When RainCheck launches this month, this version will showcase its core functionality before Wall and his team add in more features like shop assistance further down the line.

“I spent many years building ecommerce platforms and mobile platforms,” he says.

Read the article on Startup Smart.

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Press

Bridging the gaps in the online-to-offline process is often seen as an insurmountable challenge. Retailers just want feet in their physical stores. Customers are doing more of their shopping online and need a pretty good reason to convince them to take the trip. Retailers, in an attempt to scratch that itch, are resorting to all kinds of tricks and traps, including the perfunctory deals and discounts. However, one Australian startup thinks that all retailers need to do is give the right customers a nudge in the right direction — all at the right time.

In an interview with MPD CEO Karen Webster, Cameron Wall, CEO of RainCheck, explained why he thinks his startup’s app could give consumers and merchants what they really want when it comes to keeping up with the evolving retail environment. Half shopping companion app and half merchant-facing marketing platform, RainCheck promises to “bridge the online world with the offline world,” Wall said.

How might that happen? By addressing the staggering statistics behind products abandoned in online shopping carts. According to SaleCycle, 77.5 percent of online shoppers walked away from digital baskets without making a purchase. Wall noted that while it’s nearly impossible to tell whether those customers were ever going to close on their purchases, it still indicates interest.

That’s where RainCheck comes in.

Instead of having those potential purchases lost to the Internet forever, RainCheck’s app cross-posts selected products from online stores to users’ personal apps. When shoppers visit a mall or city center with storefronts that carry products they’ve placed into carts but have all but forgotten about, beacons broadcast which store has customers’ preferred items in stock, as well as any targeted promotions to drive conversions on the spot.

“There’s over $4 trillion in merchandise left abandoned in shopping carts online,” Wall said. “This is $4 trillion globally, and $15 billion in Australia alone. This is stuff that someone has expressed an interest in buying and never carried through. That’s gold for retailers if you can find out who these people are.”

Still in closed beta, RainCheck manages its own network of in-store beacons and tracks 24 distinct data points, including when customers conduct online research, what type of items they’re searching for and what genre of retailer they’re interested in — data that many smaller retailers simply don’t have the time, infrastructure or resources to glean themselves. While the app is still adding features, core functionality at the moment includes the full suite of online cart-saving and cross-posting options and the ability to share saved lists with friends and family.

However, Wall hinted at some of RainCheck’s upcoming features that could strike it rich with data-hungry retailers. Wall gave an example where a retailer considering changes to in-store inventory and displays can go into RainCheck’s dashboard to check how many shoppers have added individual items to their saved lists. If the goal is to move product quickly, the retailer can send push notifications to those specific customers, including time-sensitive discounts. On the other hand, if the goal is to maximize the impact of in-store displays, the retailer can adjust product placements around the store to achieve maximum visibility for the items online shoppers have already demonstrated interest in.

Above all of RainCheck’s under-the-hood data analytics and targeted promotional capabilities, Wall summed up the app’s value as simply giving both consumers and retailers what they both want out of the online-to-offline path to purchase.

“[Click-and-collect] has become really big in the last 16 months, and RainCheck is what consumers really want out of [click-and-collect],” Wall said. “And I know it’s costing retailers a lot of money to move merchandise around when people order and want to pick up in store.”

RainCheck is scheduled to go live in November for Australian retailers only initially and for Apple iOS users, but if success follows in the Land Down Under, it might not be long before Wall and RainCheck have solved online cart abandonment once and for all for merchants everywhere.

At least that’s the plan.

Read the article on PYMNTS.com.

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Press

We all love shopping online. But sometimes, it just doesn’t get the job done. Is that shirt really going to fit me? Is that handbag actually going to look good? Sometimes, you’ve got to go to the store and see things in person before you make a purchase. But that can be a bit of a pain – especially if you see a lot of things you like on like but don’t know where to check them all out in stores, or can’t remember everything you liked.

That’s where RainCheck comes in. RainCheck is a mobile app that lets you save items you find online to a wishlist. You can also share them with friends, comment on them, etc. – all the usual stuff. But when you enter a brick-and-mortar shop that carries one of the items on your wishlist, RainCheck will come to life. The app will notify you so that you can check out the item in person, find any discounts you might be able to get on it, and even help you pay for it conveniently with your phone. Here’s the startup’s video pitch:

RainCheck CEO and co-founder Cameron Wall told Tech in Asia that the idea came to him while he was working on mobile replatforming for big brands on ecommerce sites around the world. “I noticed a lot of people weren’t actually buying online,” said Wall. “They’re shopping online but they’re not actually making the purchase online.” Wall found that online shopping cart abandonment rates averaged about 75 percent, and that number was growing.

The reason for this, Wall said, is a consumer behavior called “reverse showrooming” or “webrooming,” where consumers check out items they’re interested online, but then purchase them offline. (Personally, I tend to do the opposite – check out a product offline and then buy it online where it’s cheaper, but Wall said I’m in the minority). Wall saw a need for an app that could bridge this gap, and facilitate the kind of part-online, part-offline shopping that modern consumers are engaging in. In other words, he wanted to unify online and offline shopping.

The “lightbulb moment”

That lightbulb moment came in May of 2014, and Wall quickly pulled in developer William Lin, who helped him to put together a prototype. Eventually they pulled in a designer, and in November they formally formed the company. Since, the RainCheck folks have been working hard on building the platform and locking down retail partners for when the app launches.

Initially, RainCheck will only be available in Australia, and it will be focused on apparel. Wall said his team has already got “some of the larger retailers” lined up, and RainCheck will also be offering its services for free to small, independent retail shops. It will “probably” be available in October, and the first version of the app will be pretty stripped-down to its core functions: saving items to a wishlist, push notifications in partner stores, etc.

But RainCheck isn’t just about facilitating the consumer shopping experience, of course. Wall said the retailers his team have spoken to “love it.” While most big apparel retailers have websites, they don’t actually have native apps, which means they lack a lot of functionality – they can’t do push notifications, they can’t use in-store beacons to track user data and shopping habits, etc. RainCheck gives them that. The startup also plans to offer a solution that will see retailers integrating RainCheck APIs into their own apps, but since many don’t have their own apps, partnering with RainCheck gives them access to mobile app functions without the need to invest in app development.

Of course, that’s only appealing if RainCheck can secure a solid user base. There isn’t really an app out there that addresses the online-to-offline shopping experience in this way, said Wall. “And I think people need one,” he added. It should help that RainCheck’s app will be free and not monetized – the company makes its money through subscriptions with retail partners, and it doesn’t ask that consumers spend much screen time in the app. For end-users, it should just be a convenience – a way to make your phone buzz whenever you’re near some item on your wishlist in a store, and sometimes a way to get a deal.

RainCheck is still in its early days, and Wall said that the startup experience so far has been funny: “amazingly, really cool things happen, and then the next minute something drastic happens.” And like many founders, he says one of the biggest early challenges is getting together a good team. Attracting people and retaining them can be difficult, especially when you’re self-funded. RainCheck’s team is only four people (with three full time), but Wall said the small team helps them get things done efficiently.

RainCheck is currently self-funded,and not looking to raise money from investors until after the app has launched and the company has some actual revenue and data to show off. “Probably later this year [after the app has launched] we’ll start looking for some funding,” Wall said.

RainCheck was a finalist in Seedstars Sydney, which was held on July 18. Seedstars Sydney was the latest round of the Asian chapter of Seedstars World, the global seed ­stage startup competition for emerging markets and fast­ growing startup scenes, now present in 52 countries.

The regional winner, Eora 3D, was selected as the best startup in Australia. The prize includes a flight and an all inclusive week in Switzerland in March 2016, where Eora 3D will pitch their idea with all the other winners from around to world, to compete for the US$500,000 equity prize.

Read the article on Tech In Asia.

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Technology has fast become a critical enabler of marketing innovation.

Savvy marketers and their agencies are looking to the increasing number of technology startups to inspire and support the creative execution of their campaigns.

Unilever has set up a programme that helps brands engage with startups to run trial projects and provide mentoring.

Launched in 2014 The Unilever Foundry and has now vetted 3,000 startups, with over 60 successfully securing their first pilot project with a Unilever brand.

Following the success of the first year of the programme Unilever recently announced its Foundry 50, a list of 50 top marketing technology startups. Many of these 50 startups, featured here, highlight clear trends in five areas that will shape the future of marketing:

Internet of Things

Mobile has undoubtedly caused the most significant step change in marketing since the internet, but we are now entering the next era of smart products, be that wearables or other things that have embedded sensors, processors and connectivity.

This is already a focus area for retail in particular where startups are continuing to advance product tracking and proximity marketing technologies. For example:

  • NewAer has developed proximity advertising capabilities without the need for beacons, enabling brands to deliver contextual information and rewards to customers on-site.
  • Shopperception uses 3D motion sensors to analyse consumer behaviour and product interaction at shelf to analyse and inform a range of decisions from store layout to products stocked, and to trigger real-time advertising in-store.
  • RainCheck can notify consumers of products they have found online and saved to their wishlist when they enter physical stores.
  • SyncSpot drives footfall by offering consumers access to exclusive content when they enter a geo-fenced area such as a store (typically a song from the consumer’s favourite artist, a book by their favourite author, or a video from their favourite TV show).

Video

Start-ups are helping marketers make headway with this fast growing medium.

They are disrupting the traditional video production model by facilitating connections between brands and video creators, and are developing the tools and technology to support more interactive content creation and advanced analytics. For example:

  • Vidsy provides a platform where brands can outline a creative brief for the Vidsy creator community who will respond with a variety of short-form video entries. The videos selected and used by the brand receive financial rewards. The new model provides a lower cost alternative to traditional production with the benefits of diverse content and a faster turnaround.
  • Describing itself as an influencer marketplace, Reelio provides a platform to connect brands and their creative briefs with influential YouTube creators. Videos cost from $250 and, unlike Vidsy, are only commissioned once the brand has approved a particular creator.
  • WIREWAX offers a video creation and editing tool, including the technology to create interactive hotspots in video content. Havaianas used the technology as part of their #SambaInTheRain campaign earlier this year to showcase their rain boot collection, allowing consumers to click on products in the video for more information and the option to buy now.
  • Graymatics analyses video and image content to understand consumer interests through the content they have liked, shared and pinned.

Social media & messaging apps

Social media trends reflect those seen in video. Startups are helping brands to identify and connect with influencers, and to use social media and consumer generated content to add authenticity and diversity to their marketing. For example:

  • Little Bird is a platform already used by Comcast, Cisco and IBM to find top influencers on social media, understand their network relationships and identify the most relevant content in their communities.
  • Function is a service which specialises in identifying influencers for brands and industries and using paid media to deliver customised 1:1 messages to those individuals. The individually tailored ads are delivered via platforms including Facebook and Twitter to each of the influencers identified, which can number from 25-100 influencers per brief.
  • Olapic and Chute provide platforms which help brands to discover and amplify consumer content from social networks such as Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube, including securing the rights to use the images and videos. Brands are then able to use the content on owned media (for example, on commerce product pages) and in advertising.
  • Seenit helps brands to use consumer video content taken on smartphones and other connected devices. Content will be captured by the private community who have downloaded the branded studio app, with a rewards system in place for footage that the brand uses. The private community creating the content can be consumers, influencers or team members giving a behind-the-scenes look. Check out this Grazia example:

Messaging apps warrant a separate mention within social media. They are fast becoming a mainstream channel for marketers to engage with consumers due to their reach amongst younger audiences and startups are helping to enrich this interaction through the creation of branded content. For example:

  • Jifi enables brands to create interactive branded video and GIF based stories to share online, specifically designed with mobile and messaging apps in mind.
  • Snaps allows brands to create custom branded keyboards enabling branded emojis, stickers and GIFs to be shared across Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and other messaging apps. Here are two examples available to download – the #PepsiMoji Keyboard and the Jaguars Emoji Keyboard, which includes emojis, stickers and GIFs relating to the NFL team:

Multimedia analytics

Analysing and segmenting audiences is not a new practice for brands, but has traditionally been limited to using transactional, behavioural and demographic data.

Startups are looking at innovative ways to understand and target consumers through different media, namely images, video, advanced text analytics and musical tastes. We mentioned Graymatics video analytics earlier, other examples include:

  • Pixoneye segments consumers by analysing the photos saved on their phone and is able to then use this information to personalise mobile advertising.
    Relative Insight provides advanced text analytics to better understand and target the consumer using their language.
  • Preceptiv profiles and segments consumers by scanning the music on their devices and analysing their musical tastes. The profiling methods are reported to have the same accuracy as personality tests requiring consumers to answer 50-100 questions.

Empowering consumers to own and monetise their data

An additional draw for the service is the consumer’s ability to mine their own data to keep up to date on their online habits and social networking activity.

Read the article on Econsultancy.

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A mobile app which will alert shoppers that an item they have browsed online is available in a nearby store is about to be released in Australia…

The service – called RainCheck – aims to close the loop on abandoned online shopping carts and tighten retailer-consumer links.

According to the Baymard Institute which tracks web usability, online shopping cart abandonment is running at about 68.5 percent internationally.

And, said Cameron Wall, RainCheck CEO and co-founder; “Most people research online but buy offline.”

Initially the company will concentrate on rolling out the app for retailers of women’s clothing and scale from there. He said that the company was planning to launch the service in Spring with up to a dozen Australian retailers.

To deploy the system RainCheck inserts a custom Java script onto a retailer’s ecommerce site. This creates a RainCheck button on the site and at checkout.

Consumers meanwhile will be encouraged to download an app (initially for iPhones, but eventually for Android phones too) which will aggregate the shopping lists that they have been creating when browsing online sites.

That list can be shared with friends also.

Beacon technologies will identify when a consumer approaches participating retailers’ outlets and send an alert to the app to tell the consumer that the outfit they have been browsing online is available in the right size at the nearby retail outlet.

Wall said that there was also the option for retailers to attach coupons to the alert to encourage purchase.

In the future the company also plans to integrate smartphone payment systems such as ApplePay and PayPal.

Wall said that RainCheck’s business model was around the data that was collected when consumers browsed an online commerce site. “We wanted to do it on a pay per performance – but retailers are not at that level,” he said. Instead RainCheck plans to charge a per store, per month fee for the service which will be charged on a sliding scale according to the average basket size at a retailer.

Stores will also be able to access an online dashboard to explore consumer data in more detail.

Earlier this month RainCheck was the only Australian company to secure a position in the Unilever Foundry 50 listing which ranks disruptive marketing startups and last week participated in the Innovation Lions event, part of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Read the article on iStart.

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Effort Overall Has Vetted 3,000 Contenders in Marketing, Research, Data

Marketers have tapped the vast universe of startups in many ways, but Unilever’s year-old Foundry program may be the most comprehensive and systematic effort yet, as the company has vetted 3,000 startups in marketing, research and data science in its first year.

Another major piece of that effort unfolds June 25-26 during the Innovation Lions, a “festival within a festival” during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Unilever will introduce its Foundry50, which it deems the world’s top 50 marketing-tech startups, to the assembled masses of agency and marketer delegates. Many will have a chance to meet the 50 through prescheduled pitches and speed-dating sessions. At press time, a few slots for agencies and their clients remained.

Unilever drew 300 entries for the Foundry50 in March and April, said Jeremy Basset, global marketing ventures director, who leads the effort. Mr. Basset has been working on the Foundry from its inception, in May 2014, under former Senior VP-Marketing Marc Mathieu, who left for a marketing post at Samsung earlier this month. He has been replaced on the Cannes speaker roster by Luis Di Como, Unilever senior-VP global media.

The Foundry isn’t just a contest, nor is it an incubator or accelerator, though it works with some, such as Collider in the U.K. Nor is it a venture-capital fund, though Unilever has one of those too. It’s really more of a conduit linking Unilever brands with startups, and now through Foundry50, also making the fruits of its efforts available to the broader marketing world.

“The reality is that the more the marketing industry can get behind startups, pilot with them, partner with them and help them scale, the faster not only will Unilever be able to invent the future, but so will the industry,” Mr. Basset said. “It’s good for the industry. It’s good for us as marketers.” The Foundry may just have the world’s most exhaustive database of marketing-tech startups, at least outside the email archives of ad-tech reporters. Even before the Foundry50, Unilever already had been contacted by thousands of startups thanks to prior work vetting them for pilot projects or waves of entries from previous contests, Mr. Basset said.

“It’s not purely about improving our database,” Mr. Basset said of the contests. “It’s really about genuinely giving startups a platform to scale up not only with Unilever but also with the industry. We want to inspire more startups in this area, get behind them and help them.”

Foundry50 is by far Unilever’s biggest such effort to date, he said. “With the number of startups participating and the number of industry representatives, I think it’s unprecedented for us but also for the industry.”

Unilever’s right to play in the area comes from being the world’s second-largest advertiser (behind Procter & Gamble Co.), with 7,000 marketers who can bring expertise to startups, of which 300 have been designated as “mentors” for startups, he said.

“And then we’ve got a healthy balance sheet,” he said, and Unilever Ventures, a venture-capital arm that also can make investments. While most of the portfolio of Unilever Ventures, launched in 2002, has been in product-related brands or technology, it has had some marketing-tech investments over the years, including mobile ad-tech firm Brandtone, online-recipe platform Yummly, and U.K. market-research firm Brainjuicer, which went public in 2006. Having heard from 3,000 startups, “We’ve said no a lot more than we’ve said yes,” Mr. Basset said. “But we’ve said yes to over 60 of the companies. We’re actively piloting with 60, and on 28 of those occasions we’ve already said yes to working with them a second or third time.”

With so much real work having been spawned in a year, he said, “It’s safe to say this is not a PR stunt or interesting competition. It’s really putting startups at the heart of how we do innovation.”

Company Country What They Do
Adcash Limited United Kingdom Makes phone lock screen into personalized story app.
Adludio United Kingdom Data science to target mobile ads
Ahalogy USA Content, strategy and analytics for Pinterest
Chute USA Discovery and amplification of fan photos.
Culture Machine Singapore, India, USA Digital video creation, technology and targeting
Digital Genius UK & USA Systems for automated customer conversations.
Discuss.io USA On-demand virtual focus groups for marketers
function USA Customized messaging
Graymatics USA Multimedia analytics
Knotch USA Branded content analytics
LivingLens United Kingdom Captures and analyzes video content for research.
Locomizer United Kingdom Geo-behavioral mobile ad targeting
Mattr USA Analyzes social-media personality types.
Miappi United Kingdom Amplifies social-media reach of content
Mobile Metrix Brazil & USA Using mobile technology to count the uncounted
Motion Portrait Japan 3D face modeling for virtual try-out apps, etc.
Neurensics Netherlands Neuro-economic research for marketing
NewAer, Inc. USA Proximity advertising without beacons
Novalia United Kingdom Conductive stickers that add sound to displays
Olapic USA Uses consumer content to improve digital ads
Ozonetel India Consumer Marketing & Payment
Pixoneye United Kingdom Real-time personalization on mobile devices
Placed USA Insight, targeting and analytics for mobile ads
Playmob United Kingdom Connecting gaming and fundraising
Powr of You United Kingdom Profiles consumers across devices, networks
Preceptiv United Kingdom Analyzes consumer segments by musical tastes
Quill United Kingdom Content development and marketing
RainCheck Australia App tells you when you enter store of items you found online.
Real Life Analytics United Kingdom Detects demographic data in-store for ad targeting
Realeyes United Kingdom Measures emotions with webcames, facial coding
Reelio, Inc. USA Finds best YouTube influencers for brands
Relative Insight United Kingdom Language analytics for market research
Rock Labs Ltd United Kingdom Content creation and analytics
ScreenCloud United Kingdom Open source platform for connected screens
Seenit United Kingdom Content collaboration platform
Shareablee USA Analyzes consumer engagement with brand content
Shopperception Argentina (now in USA) Analyzes consumer behavior at shelf
Snaps USA Branded keyboards and other text-marketing tools
Sqreem Singapore Behavioral analytics on cities, regions etc.
Stashmetrics United Kingdom Social media analytics
SyncSpot United Kingdom Content to drive traffic for retailers, brands
TouchCast USA New medium that looks like video, feels like web
Traction USA Connects brands with top digital-marketing experts
Tuluntulu South Africa App for watching TV anywhere
TVadSync Ireland Lets advertisers synch short-bursts of online media with TV ads
Upworthy USA Curates the web for meaningful content to share
Vidsy United Kingdom Links brands with video creators and entertainers
WeDemand! USA Crowdsourcing app to influence where bands tour
WIREWAX United Kingdom Video creation and editing tool
ZappiStore United Kingdom Rapid market-research tests
Little Bird (Scaleup Winner Guest) USA Measures impact of influencers in socia media
Glimr (Scaleup Winner Guest) United Kingdom Uses beacons to fuse online and in-store marketing

Read the article on AdAge.

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As the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity kicks off this week with a greater focus on digital, disruption and the role of technology in marketing, one small Australian company has earned a presence in the inaugural Unilever Foundry50 line-up of marketing tech start-ups.

RainCheck was founded in an effort to solve the perennial online shopping conundrum: a lot of people browse and research products online, but relatively few actually complete those purchases.

Between 65 per cent and 75 per cent of shoppers, depending on the product category, abandon their shopping carts online, according to figures from SaleCycle, and 86 per cent research products online before buying offline.

So what happens to all those virtual shopping carts clogging up the aisles of online retailers? Most of them disappear into the ether, taking with them $US4 billion ($A5.1bn) in potential sales, of which about $2.5bn “should” be captured, according to BI Intelligence estimates. But RainCheck has a plan to change that.

Co-founded by former Digitas LBi executives Cameron Wall, who is the chief executive, and Lucas Bigwood, who is the chief marketing officer, the start-up aims to connect online shoppers with offline purchases.

The company has built its own RainCheck app which enables people to save the items in their shopping cart to a ‘wishlist’ on their mobile device that then informs them when they are within range of that product in the physical world using beacon technology.

“The retailer has to allow RainCheck to tag their site,” says Wall. “The buyer has to download the app.

“Then when they click on the RainCheck icon, which will be next to the ‘Add to shopping cart’ button on the retailer’s website, it saves the item details into the cloud.”

The company, which was formed in November last year, is in talks with retailers about signing up to the service.

When a chain signs up, RainCheck will undertake to install beacons in each store that communicate with their app when the device it is on is within range.

There is also a data play, Wall says. “We look for 24 data points. No one can get that data. most of these people aren’t buying online, they’re buying in-store.

“We’ll eventually incorporate a virtual wallet (so people can buy using their phone).”

RainCheck is self-funded at the moment, and is set to launch in Australia in September with between six and a dozen retailers on board.

The company’s two other co-founders, chief technology officer William Lin and designer Rodrigo Holler are also shareholders.

RainCheck will then look to raise Series A funding of more than $3 million to fund a first-quarter launch in both the US and in Asia.

“Our business model’s quite straightforward,” Wall says. “If the retailer has 100 stores, we look at the average basket price and charge a per store per month cost. We can realise a really good return on investment that way.

“You can also add different offers, such as 10 per cent off if you buy it in the next 10 minutes.”

In Cannes this week, the company will participate in “speed-dating” style introductions with major advertisers, technology partners and agencies as part of the inaugural Lions Innovation two-day technology and data-focused “festival within a festival” that starts on Thursday.

About 300 start-ups applied to be part of the Unilever Foundry50.

Read the article on The Australian.

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