So Shopkick is apparently profitable, driving hundreds of millions of new sales to merchants--remember them? The in-store retail check-in app?
What do they have in common? They're making real business progress towards bringing retailers together with customers. In the face of "software eating the mall" they're helping make the retail shopping experience better for the hundreds of millions of humans who still walk around outside and occasionally go into physical stores.
And they're not alone. Nomi just raised $3mm to help retailers understand their customers--the ones that are actually in the store, by using analytics around their mobile devices.
Today, at Demo, SocialSignIn launched to "solve the problem of businesses knowing more about their online visitors than those standing in their physical location." (Disclosure, I have a business relationship with the company.) They enable a merchant or venue to provide free wifi access in exchange for basic customer data and a continuing digital relationship. No more captchas or struggling to tweet a pic of your favorite desert because you can't get coverage.
This could mean loyalty, or something more creative. Personally, I'm rooting for Foot Locker to allow me to pick the sneakers I like online, and then bring them to the counter when I sign in at the store. I can't tell you how much I hate chasing down a customer rep who is on their way "to the back" to get someone else's shoes. "WAIT WAIT... Got these in a 12??"
There are a bunch of trends at play here. Three years ago, in "the Foursquare post that launched 1000 VC's" I wrote:
"Being able to connect web advertising, recommendations, and social media buzz to an actual person walking into your store has long been the holy grail of the advertising world."
I still believe that, whether or not Foursquare has come through on that promise yet (glad they got an extended life to help try to make that happen through Foursquare for Business, though). I still walk into stores. They still have no idea who I am or what I'm there to buy--but I feel like we're getting closer.
Here's what else I believe:
- Bandwidth will continue to be an issue. You can't connect with your customer in-store if they can't connect to their network. Wifi and offloading the traffic to the pipes in the ground is going to play an absolutely major role. Verizon and others know this and will undoubtedly encourage as many mobile devices as possible to get out of the tower bandwidth and into the fiber on the ground.
- Identity is important. When wireless networks were first built, they were built with the expectation that you were using this at home with your laptop. You didn't need an identity layer because you weren't walking around with your wifi enabled mobile device. For security, trust and even business reasons, this needs to get solved. You want your friends to be able to login to your home wifi when they come visit you, but you don't want your neighbor to mooch off your wifi--or maybe you do, but just not during peak times. You want to treat your best customers even better. Om wrote about this in his "Data Darwinism" post. Not only does he want to get treated like a whale when the data says he is, but "some of the nicest people in real life turn into a baboon’s backside once they are online and are anonymous". Identity and mobile is going to need to become a mutually beneficial tradeoff if mobile is ever going to improve our experience of the outside world.
- Router companies are going to see this as a way to climb up the stack--and the space is going to get very acquisitive very quickly. If I'm Cisco, and I just spent a billion on Meraki, I'm going to look for more and more ways to generate cash from my installed base of physical hardware--and that's going to mean smart software in the router and various services around it.
- Knowing where you are indoors is going to be important. Apple bought WifiSlam to help triangulate your location and Floored (one of my investments) is scanning indoor spaces with cutting edge 3D tech.
Thoughts? Opportunties? What am I missing? What are you excited about?