A recent Tech Crunch article by Tom Goodwin suggests 2015 is all about the customer interface. The article points out, that Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Goodwin believes, the Internet is the most powerful mechanism we can imagine to match perfectly individuals that need something, and people with something to offer.
And if you keep that in mind, you may find my predictions for Booodl and the future of e-commerce quite interesting. For those who are not yet familiar with the app and platform, Booodl is like an online to offline market place – for people wanting to locate items nearby they need. When you remember that, and consider the following, you start to see that the future for Booodl looks rather bright.
Every marketing success story is based on turning a want into a need. All advertising is centred on this simple premise. And everyday consumers buy items as a result. Materialism is part of our culture, and we are constantly purchasing items, for ourselves, our families, for weddings, housewarmings and just because shopping is fun. And as Goodwin states, the Internet is now the perfect medium to do this, at scale, cost effectively.
According to a 2015, Global retail survey, conducted by PwC, 49% of shoppers preferred doing their research for clothing and footwear purchases in a store, 43% online and 5% via catalogue. What this suggests, it that while online shopping – and therefore websites, digital advertising, search marketing, SEO, social media and e-commerce sites can help with the purchase decision, the in-store experience is still crucial in the retail environment.
Now you may think this is simply stating the obvious, however the key issue with this behaviour, is the disconnect from online research to in-store behaviour and purchase. Therefore, at present, very little in understood about how to influence and assist the consumer in their online to offline journey. For a long time, brands have plunged hundreds of thousands of dollars into digital marketing. Using Search, Performance Media and Social CRM, digital is used to drive the online consumer down the funnel of their purchase cycle. However, at some point the online user stops researching and decides to buy their item. In a new technical era, at this point, many people will decide to buy online. The last 15 years brand have been obsessed with recording, tracking and analysing this process to collect data about their online behaviour, to form insights that help the understand when to target their brand messages at optimum time frames and within environments the consumer trusts. A combination of digital marketing tactics, can be very effective in driving an online user down this purchase funnel and often a conversion pixel can prove that such advertising was instrumental in influencing their decision. But largely once the user goes offline, brands can merely predict what happened next.
Despite the availability of such technology, as the PwC report points out, many people around the world still like to try before they buy; preferring to get out in the real world and experience the items first hand. Especially before spending their hard earned cash. We all understand how in the 2 dimensional, somewhat anonymous online ecosystem, information can often fail to represent the real life situation. Conclusively, most consumers reach a point in their purchase decision, where they log off from their phones and computers, walk in store and buy that product.
Which is great for the retailer, but not so great for the retailer’s marketing department. The marketing department has spent a lot of money on digital advertising and believes that it most likely had an influence in the consumer’s purchase journey. But there is no way to prove it. Once a user goes offline, the purchase journey is disrupted and marketeers can at best correlate total spend vs sales figures to measure success post campaign, but they have no way of knowing how many sales were directly attributed to the digital marketing spend alone.
As yet, there is no permanent software environment that connects the virtual and physical world, to allow the brand to continue mapping the consumers online to offline purchase journey. Many brands use temporary tactics, such as online coupons to drive people in store. This method of advertising is popular, because it delivers strong sales revenue, but also gives the brand key insights in to better understanding the demographics and behaviours of their customers. However, it is also seen as tacky, and sometimes eats in to the brand’s profits unnecessarily. So really, there are few ways to link online and offline behaviour sequentially.
By creating an online platform that tracks in real-time, this infinite loop of online to offline transactions, Booodl is able to suddenly do what very few business platforms have ever done before, directly attribute back an in-store sale, to a person’s previous online activities.
The second point of difference with Booodl, and what in fact relates back to Goodwin’s point about the scramble for the user interface, is that across the globe, the past 15 years have been spent helping traditional, bureaucratic companies move online. First a website, then social media, then mobile, and then the digital marketing planning that came with it. This was such an intensive task, that there was no time to think about one day, when online was commonplace, that people might go back offline, and simply want to do things the old fashioned way. We live in world that is still alive with experiences, but also dominated by technology. Children are brought up with iPads, cameras and smartphones. Future facing companies are beginning to realise the opportunities in connecting the data from the online and offline world. SoLoMo was the pretext. In an age where people carry their smartphones everywhere, and we can now GPS track and pin point people by geo-location every minute of the day, it has now become possible to connect the online and the offline world.
Yet, despite online e-commerce offering a convenient and direct way to buy products, brands acknowledge that consumers still like to buy in-store, and talk directly to the service provider or product retailer. Worldwide, new shopping malls are constructed every year. People still take taxis and everyday people travel and need accommodation. The main problem is simply knowing where to find what you need. And while a website gives a little bit of assistance, more often than not, you need to speak to the actual person providing the service, before you feel comfortable making that purchase. Hence Goodwin is 100% correct when he says, the interface layer is where all the value and profit is.
And that is exactly the space Booodl operates in. Booodl is a pioneer in understanding how to track this journey, while also offering a product that has great utility for the end user. They are your online personal assistant throughout your purchase journey. Taking you the whole way through from searching, browsing, comparing and then staying with you as you locate your item nearby, and head in to the store to buy it. Or if you are feeling lazy, why not Uber the item to you for a small additional cost? Quite handy when you remember you suddenly need to buy that gift for your friend’s birthday but you ran out of time, and wouldn’t even know where to get it close by. It’s certainly not replacing online purchasing, but rather, removing the lack of control you have once you realise you want to buy something online, but then have to wait for it to arrive. Also, you can’t deny there’s been a time recently where you went to a shop to try an item you saw and they don’t have your size, or they have it, but in a store a few blocks away. With Booodl you can check ahead of time, see exactly which store has your item in stock, in which sizes and confirm via online chat with the store assistant, before even heading outside.
And if you acknowledge the ‘invisible retail hand’ of supply and demand is never ending, and then you remember that Booodl is like an online to offline market place – for people wanting to locate items nearby they need, you start to see the true value of the platform. But its value does not lie only in the B2C transaction between the retailer and consumer. Conversely, the B2B transaction is where the future looks even brighter. Given the platform can really stay with a person throughout their entire online or offline purchase journey, the data collected about these users becomes very useful.
Digital marketing managers no longer have to guess what happened to their online audience, once they clicked away. They can literally follow the person in store and see what they bought and where they bought it. And this is where digital marketing can finally get interesting. Not to mention the insights gleaned that will help make business and investment decisions in the future.
With a valuation around those two transactional points, Booodl will not struggle in the early days, like Facebook and Twitter, which both had trouble monetising their platforms. The Booodl platform is also a natural fit for native advertising opportunities, in a similar way to Pinterest and Instagram ads. Not to mention it will allow brands to better allocate their marketing budgets and offer the ability to directly talk to and reward their consumers who are loyal and turn up to purchase items they have put on hold via the app.