On the Button: Tapcentive Calls Its Mobile Engagement Solution Better Than Beacons, QR Codes


On the Button: Tapcentive Calls Its Mobile Engagement Solution Better Than Beacons, QR Codes

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  May 04, 2015

Tapcentive is offering an in-store mobile engagement platform that CEO Dave Wentker says is better than beacons and QR codes. That’s because it invites customers to participate rather than pushing messages to them, and is extremely easy for shoppers to use and enjoy.

The solution, which was in pilot tests in April and could see its first commercial implementation as early as next quarter, was created by a team of former VISA employees who were involved with the credit card giant’s mobile payments and commerce effort. These individuals, including Wentker, were hearing from their merchant customers that while mobile payments are interesting, they don’t equate to more customers or ticket lift. That led the VISA team to look for partners to help it and its merchants address those interests. But they couldn’t find any offerings that fit the bill, so Wentker and some of his colleagues set out on their own to create a solution.

The result is Tapcentive’s white-label platform, which consists of some hardware for use in stores and a software-as-a-service offering for which merchants are billed by the tap.

The hardware, which will initially be offered for $35 per device, looks like a buzzer you might find in a board game. A merchant could place one or more of the “magic buttons” at the entrance to a store, a store aisle end cap, or any other spot where it is trying to draw traffic. Shoppers are encouraged to lay their smartphones on top of the button (first to get the retailer’s app and subsequently) to receive store loyalty points, a discount, a gift card, or some other incentive. Wentker emphasizes the devices are not for use at the point of sale, but rather can be put at key points in the store where retailers would like on-site visitors to spend extra time.

“It’s like the blue light special of the old days. It’s simple,” says Wentker, referring to how Kmart used to deploy a blue flashing light and make an announcement over its public address system to get shoppers to rush to a certain part of the store to get a limited-time deal.

Retailers can offer whatever they like using the solution from Tapcentive, a San Francisco-based startup. That may include standard coupons and gift cards, invitations to take advantage of limited-time deals, or the ability to participate in game-like exercises to win prizes or other incentives.

Speaking of games, Wentker says that Tapcentive is seeing strong interest in its solutions from casinos, for which related retail purchases are becoming a growing slice of revenues. A casino might, for example, want to put a magic button by one of its elevators and when visitors scan their smartphones they could get a suggestion to do something they might not otherwise have considered – such as buying one of the remaining tickets to a show for the evening, or heading over to a restaurant in the casino. Not only does the Tapcentive solution offer the merchant the potential to drive customer action and engagement, it also captures the user’s location, so the casino knows where people have been and where they may be headed.

Inviting customers to get information and incentives – and making it easy for them to do so – are key for businesses that see real returns from mobile engagement technology investments, Wentker suggests, noting he is not bullish on the push model that relies on beacons. In Wentker’s opinion, beacons are headed for what Gartner refers to in the hype cycle as the trough of disillusionment stage.

A recent eMarketer (News - Alert) story indicates levels of engagement for push solutions are abysmal in retail, Wentker notes. The article refers to an Accengage study revealing that retail industry applications at 37 percent have the second-lowest push notification opt-in rate among iOS users worldwide, and saying that push notifications are on by default in Android (News - Alert) applications so interaction of users with those devices is slightly higher.

Some brands and retailers have also given QR codes a try, in what is not a push by rather a pull technique, as is Tapcentive. But QR codes didn’t take off because using them is a hassle for consumers, Wentker points out, noting they involve the individual having to download a QR app, take a usable picture of the QR code, and then wait for the app to deliver an offer or content – which is usually just a link to the company’s website.

Tapcentive, meanwhile, is as easy as a touch of a button, and delivers a platform on which retailers and brands can create a cornucopia of campaigns, contents, and incentives.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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