Yesterday I judged a panel at the Under The Radar conference in Mountain View. Four startups presented products that are meant to help retailers earn more from customers once they’ve already decided to shop there.Two of the startups, Tagtile and RewardMe, had very similar ideas: both want to help retailers figure out more about who their customers so they can tailor deals to them more effectively.
It’s like taking the Amazon approach and applying it to the real world.
Tagtile’s plan revolves around a $5 cube that retailers will put in their stores. Users download the Tagtlie app to their smartphones, then tap the phone against the cube. That action checks them in, and from then on the app tracks the user’s behaviour and sends relevant information back to the store. Later, retailers can do things like push deals to the app when loyal customers are nearby.
It’s very similar to how retailers could use NFC systems like Google Wallet, but critically doesn’t use NFC, which is only available on a handful of phones.
RewardMe is a little farther along, and is already being deployed by several restaurant chains.
It doesn’t sell any hardware, but rather resells its app on refurbished iPads, which retailers can then install in whatever way they choose. (One restaurant is building it into a kiosk, for instance.)
Users check in using their 10-digit telephone number, and that lets the store figure out who they are and track what they buy. Later interactions might require the user to enter additional information — for instance, they could be asked to enter their birthday to qualify for a discount. Later, the retailer can use this information to further target deals, like free dessert on their birthday.
To me, the Tagtile experience sounded easier and more fun — the cube looks kind of cool (especially if Tagtile lets stores add their own branding, which isn’t part of the plan but should be) and the process of tapping a phone against the cube is more casual and offhand than entering a phone number, although users will have to take the time to download the Tagtile app (the first time) and open it (every time after that).
But RewardMe cofounder Adam Gervin pointed out that most big chains will only put in programs that can reach 100% of their customers; Tagtile can only reach people with a smartphone. RewardMe could also shine in places where people are already waiting, like check-ins at sit-down restaurants. Gervin also claimed that RewardMe has some patents that will make it very competitive in the space.