Welcome to Retail Reboot: the Practical Guide to Retail’s Tech Trailblazers.
We learned through 2020’s Retail HackGames that retailers are wary when it comes to investing in new technology. From the setup price to the time investment, to the disconnection between what a large multi-national retailer can achieve – a lot of retailers across all scales are hesitant to make the leap into new technology.
Wariness from retailers has resulted in a huge under-utilisation of tech providers. When considering they offer reliable solutions to prepare for a post-COVID landscape, fear from retailers makes about as much sense as panic-buying toilet paper. 🧻
We sat down for a chat with each tech provider from the Retail HackGames to introduce them to you, the retailer. After giving them a problem statement about a vendor affected by the pandemic, we asked about their solution. And we sought advice on behalf of retailers considering a new tech investment. Yep, we’ve basically done all of the hard work for you!
Discover why we launched the Retail Revival series here.
About Tap Media:
Tap Media’s mission is to stop customers from walking out of a retail store until they’ve made a purchase decision – either to buy or not to buy. No more, “I’ll think about it”.
Tap Media uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to allow customers to view reviews, product demonstration videos, information, or price comparisons at the tap of their phone.
Problem Statement: Introducing Maddie.
Maddie owns a retail surf-store in Gold Coast’s CBD. In a typical year, the streets would be abuzz with tourists, even through the winter months! But this isn’t a typical year…
Due to strict new retail recovery protocols and a decent hit to her turnover, it has been necessary to cut floor staff. Getting customers to come through the doors is near impossible, especially when you sell surf-brands that are widely available online. Over the next few months, Maddie needs to clear her winter stock and plans to do so with an end-of-season in-store bonanza.
On top of a storewide discount, Maddie wants to spark FOMO with limited time “flash offers” that she will frequently rotate amongst categories.
Maddie’s main concerns coming into her sale period include:
Store Hygiene (Retail Recovery Protocols)
Unpredictable revenue streams
We chatted to Euan Wilson, the CEO + Founder of Tap Media.
MI Academy: What was the inspiration for starting Tap Media, and can you give us a snapshot of what Tap Media offers?
Euan: The idea for Tap Media came about after frustrations I had in a department store. I would walk into a store and be researching products to make sure I’m not being ripped off. I’d be looking at prices and various specs online, and after half an hour of research, was none the wiser.
I thought, how cool would it be to have a tool where you could get the information you needed about a product – reviews, pricing, whatever – very quickly.
We discovered Near Field Communication – the technology used in tap and go payments. I realised that NFC tags – little stickers holding that technology – could go behind products in a store. Shoppers can tap their smartphones, and it launches whatever information retailers program to show. Like a landing page, reviews, price comparisons, product info, or a video. Shoppers can make the purchase decision much faster, and also drive insights to brands and retailers.
Tap Media has been active for a bit over two years. One of the first clients we picked up was Schweigen Rangehoods. They’re across the Harvey Norman/Good Guys/Betta Electrical group. We spent 12 months working through their inventory to make sure we knew what products were in what stores.
We embedded the technology and all the mini spec sheets or price tickets. Customers can now walk in, tap their smartphone, and download spec sheets, learn more about the product or play a promotional video. Schweigen then knows what stores are having interactions by what product.
MI Academy: Tap Media remedies the problem of ‘Showrooming’. Could you explain what that is?
Euan: Sure! Showrooming is the practise of visiting a shop in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price. This is costing the retail industry $500 billion from unsold products in store.
Webrooming is another phenomenon that blew up during COVID. This is where you research and look online before going into store – making up your mind before you’ve physically browsed.
What Tap Media offers is a controlled showroom: customers can do this research in-store, on their smartphone, without messaging controlled by other retailers.
MI Academy: Let’s talk about Maddie, our surf-store retailer. How can Tap Media help Maddie draw customers back in-store, prevent “showrooming” and pull-off a successful sale with minimal staff?
Euan: The first step would be to have a big promotion online, encouraging customers to come into the store. ‘Hey, there’s some really cool offers, but you need to be able to bring your smartphone for a treasure hunt’.
Maddie can also advertise a flash-sale. She could advertise that for an hour, or for 12 hours, or two days, customers could come in, tap their phone and launch the offer.
From the back end, Maddie can switch it off after a period of time. So there’s no printing of extra materials, like sales banners or red stickers. You can turn the sale on and off from the backend, and let the customers tap for the current price.
You don’t need the lead time of weeks, or months, to prepare for a huge sale. And, you don’t need the man-power either.
If you’re a retailer running regular offers or sales, you can see from the back end what’s working and what isn’t. So if for instance, there’s an offer if you tap your phone, and there might be options as far as what they might for a sale – cashback, 20% off, 50% off.
When customers choose, retailers can see the data behind the scenes. What’s actually interesting people, and what else would they like to see.
MI Academy: For a retailer like Maddie, time is of the essence! How long would something like this take to set up and running?
Euan: That depends if the URLs are already available. If they’re ready to go, it’s almost instantaneous to program the stickers. We can program millions of stickers a month to a unique URL – there’s not an issue with volume for us.
It’s more a question of, what do they want the customer or the shopper to see? Sometimes something is better than nothing.
So if Maddie has a new line of product that is eco friendly, we want to show everyone how eco friendly it is. You might want to promote it in-store as ‘tap your smartphone to see our new line’. And then launch a video or a landing page showing those features. Then, get feedback from people and then slowly build up from there.
It’s better to start introducing the technology with something rather than nothing at all. Because the whole novelty of the technology where people can use their smartphones to navigate the store is all brand new. So just show them something to introduce them.
MI Academy: Maddie’s main concerns during COVID have been the Retail Recovery Protocols, Unpredictable Revenue Streams and Delivery Times. How might Tap Media help with those?
Euan: Retailers have often talked about dwell time. Where they want people to spend as long as possible in-store, but it needs to be effective time spent.
Say a customer is shopping for electronics. They kind of know what they want, but they want to go online and check on their phone. Tapping a product tag to bring up comparisons to other models or brands, or showing competitive prices, helps them make the decision much quicker. So that helps customers move in and out of the store more quickly, and helps the retailer with their Retail Recovery Protocols.
In regard to unpredictable revenue streams – we actually changed our business model prior to COVID. Effectively, we charge the brands X amount to have the NFC tags, and the retailers don’t pay anything. But the retailers actually get a cut of whatever the brands pay us, and some residuals as well. There’s an engagement fee for people tapping that the brand pays for.
When customers tap and engage, they’re showing they’re interested in the products. So when someone engages with the product, the brand is paying for that.
Extra revenue comes to retailers when shoppers engage with products. So it’s in their best interest to get the right kind of information coming to customers via that technology. And then it’s almost like the flywheel. And the brands want to kind of make sure the right information is there as well. That’s one area where I see the future of this kind of technology working.
It’s driving customers in-store for promotions, and then encouraging engagement. And the engagement equals revenue, which goes through the retailers and the brands themselves as well.
While we can’t reduce delivery times, we can offer an alternative. What a lot of customers like about shopping online is that you have everything there in front of you: specs, price comparisons, reviews.
We want to bring the speed and convenience you get shopping online to the in-store experience.
MI Academy: Your solution heavily relies on customers being able to physically shop in-store. Is there another way Tap Media can be utilised in, say, full lockdown?
Euan: One way we can help with that is with the technology actually on products themselves. So an example would be on a makeup product, for instance. So you tap the packaging, and it brings up a landing page for the blush. And there’s a tutorial you can watch or a lookbook you can browse. And you’re creating gamification around a product.
Another example would be delivery of hampers and flowers, where you can have a YouTube clip of family members saying, “Hey, Mum, love you miss you”. And Mum taps her smartphone on the QR code with her bunch of flowers and it launches. We can help people at home feel connected.
Or it might even be staff members saying, “Hey, I’m John, I’m one of the sales staff and I really hope you enjoy your item”. You start building that loyalty between brand and customer themselves.
MI Academy: How do you see your solution implemented on a broader scale to assist with the survival and revival of retail?
Euan: I think people are going to be valuing their time a lot more now. Not only because they’ve been spending time with family, but because we know now what matters. We don’t want to be walking aimlessly around shopping centers.
So being able to get people out to experience things will be important. And giving them the information they want at the speed they expect it, after months of shopping online and having it at their fingertips.
Trust is a key thing, right? Trust is going to be a huge thing. Being able to show people all the reviews, products, and price comparisons, then and there when I walk into the store will be crucial. It’s going to help speed up the trips people actually have in store, having more effective dwell time. So when they’re actually in-store, it’s productive store time. And people leaving feeling more warm and fuzzy about the purchase.
MI Academy: And finally, what advice would you give to a retailer that knows they can’t sit on their hands, but fears the repercussions of a bad or premature investment?
Euan: Like anything, I’d say pilot it. So our cost is really low – a few bucks per sticker. And if you have your own URL, and you’re kind of managing the pages in that, then that’s all it costs for you. Pilot it with some popular items. Items you know you’re going to get a return on investment from anyway and see what you get from that.
But as I say, I mean, something’s better than nothing. And it’s not like you need to drop tens of thousands of dollars just to see where it goes. With our solution, It’s really low cost. Because we’re expecting it’s going to come on volume.
Alita Harvey-Rodriguez is known as one of Australia's leading digital marketing futurists and the brains behind Milk It Academy – A research-based training firm to advance marketers skills into new school digital leaders and company innovators. For over a decade Alita has worked with global brands including SAP, Experian, SEMrush, TS14+, Estee Lauder, Myer, Power Retail, & Online Retailer.