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Welcome to the fifth edition of Startup Outlook, 360i’s guide to how brands can evaluate emerging technologies and platforms. This month takes a look at how shopping is changing. Social commerce, mobile commerce and crowdsourcing play a role, as do advents in search engine optimization. Together, the five startups featured this month — BloomReach, Quirky, Shopkick, Swirl, and Wrapp — give marketers ways to reach consumers as they shop digitally and in-store. If you have feedback, or if you represent a startup and want to be considered for a future edition, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the Startups
Each Startup Outlook report measures five select companies against the evaluation criteria outlined in 360i’s Startup Scorecard. To suggest a startup for inclusion in future updates, contact us at email@example.com.
Value: What consumer and brand needs does the technology facilitate? If a consumer application, why would consumers use this, and why would brands even consider participating? If the value is high for consumers, brands will want to ﬁnd a way to get involved. Prominence: How can the brand stand out and create its own experience? A rotating banner ad within a site or application won’t give the brand a prominent hook, while sponsorships, white label offerings and product integration will score high here.
Here is 360i’s qualitative Startup Scorecard, presenting the four criteria to use when evaluating startups: Applicability: Which brands or verticals would ﬁnd the startup most relevant? Even the hottest startups aren’t right for every brand. Some startups are more applicable for a certain season, campaign or goal.
Ingenuity: What is exciting right now? In some cases, a brand will seek out ingenuity because it’s looking to attract media attention and get recognized as an innovator. It’s also important to discern whether the offering is truly unique, or if there are more established competitors with similar offerings that can better achieve a marketer’s goals.
Value: BloomReach allows marketers to dynamically tailor their website content to the needs and wants implied by consumers searching it. By building an understanding of which products and content are being marketed by a brand, BloomReach dynamically optimizes offerings for each query. In the process, consumers gain greater relevance and — assuming the experience goes well — they will reward those brands with their purchases and loyalty.
Applicability: Retailers are the prime target for this technology solution, but any marketer that has a firm grasp on its revenue per visitor and owns a large amount of unique valuable content may want to consider BloomReach.
BloomReach uses Big Data to improve site traffic by making content more relevant to searchers. (Image via BloomReach)
Prominence: The experience is customized for each marketer. BloomReach works within the brand site using a template design developed by the brand in line with its existing creative.
Ingenuity: BloomReach is the first technology of its kind to bridge the divide between dynamic landing pages and static content for SEO purposes — all while adhering to ethical SEO best practices.
Value: Quirky is one of the best examples of crowdsourcing, where people come together to create something that evolves through the community’s involvement. Anyone can upload a product idea. Through a voting and guided brainstorming process, the best ideas move into production; people even contribute input to pricing. Everyone who contributes significantly receives a share of the product’s sales, motiving people to stay involved. A handful of people have earned enough to live off of. While Quirky sells its own products, most sales come through retailers such as Target, Amazon and Bed, 2
Bath & Beyond. Quirky is starting to form deep relationships with brands, such as when it collaborated with GE to innovate around a common household product, leading to a milk container that knows when the beverage expires.
The Pivot Power adjustable power strip was developed in one week by members of the Quirky community. (Image via Engadget)
Applicability: Quirky has gained momentum by partnering with big box retailers, and it can work with them to create exclusive products. For brands, there are creative possibilities for a range of verticals. It’s unlikely that brands will use Quirky in place of its established research and development process. However, brands can tap Quirky’s audience to explore new products and ideas that mesh with their own brand values, such as a travel brand seeking products that would allow people to have more fun on a road trip, or a beer brewer seeking products that twenty-somethings should have at a party. These are just thought starters, as Quirky is looking for long-term partners it can work with for years.
Prominence: Quirky doesn’t want to work with every brand and retailer. Marketers that collaborate with Quirky’s audience will likely do so through programs that align very closely with the brand’s goals and values. The brand will benefit by tapping Quirky’s expanding and active audience, as well as the brand’s own fans and customers.
Ingenuity: Quirky is emblematic of how radically digital media can change so much of how product development operates, with its community’s deep involvement at various stages of the process. It can prototype and iterate quicker than most brands and it can rapidly kill off a dud while spinning off a hit. Yet its retail model is very traditional, as it aims to distribute products through the largest retailers. Its unusual — and, at times, quirky — approach to development should be seen as complementary for most brands. Even if Quirky isn’t a fit as a partner, most marketers can benefit from studying its transparent process to see if there’s anything that can be applied to their own businesses.
Value: Shopkick is a mobile shopping app that uses game mechanics to reward users with points for visiting stores, scanning products and exploring nearby offers. Nielsen reported that it’s the fourth most popular shopping app for US smartphone users as of June 2012, with the average time spent on the app more than three times higher than eBay, the second most engaging app. Shopkick has added features that allow consumers to link their credit cards to the app, which in turn allows marketers to collect rich data showing the path to purchase for products featured within the app.
Applicability: Shopkick feature retailers spanning a range of verticals, including grocery, apparel, electronics, toys and gas. Brand marketers and product manufacturers can then feature their products in conjunction with those retailers.
Prominence: Retailers offering special deals for “kicks,” the in-app currency, are promoted prominently. Various products are then featured in association with each retailer. The best way to increase visibility is to offer the most compelling rewards and deals on a regular basis.
Ingenuity: When Shopkick first launched, it felt like a game. Now it’s making a case for how it can shape and track purchase behavior — a massive opportunity that has proved challenging even for deep-pocketed companies
Shopkick gamifies the shopping experience, incentivizing people to head to stores and engage while they are there. (Image via Shopkick)
like Facebook. Shopkick’s focus, widespread retail relationships across the US, and its playfulness are motivating shoppers to kick the tires and then stick around.
Value: Swirl is a website and mobile application that lets users browse fashion offers currently available from retailers in their local area. Stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom and Chanel share images of clothing and accessories currently available, which users can browse and clip to their own curated shopping boards. Every catalogued item includes product information, current offers (if available), and store locations where it can be purchased. A map-view tab helps users visually identify their closest 4
store and offers. Over time, Swirl will learn each user’s preferences and customize product listings accordingly. Members will be able to share their purchases with friends and collaborate on shopping lists via integration with Facebook.
Swirl serves as a catalog of nearby deals, enabling consumers to browse offers and then shop in store. (Image via Swirl)
Applicability: Swirl is currently being used by fashion retailers and brands to drive customers to their stores. Brands without their own retail presence may be featured in a retail partner’s collection. Swirl plans on moving into housewares and other categories in time.
Prominence: Popular clips and collections are featured primarily, rather than specific brands, so marketers will gain more visibility by listing products that connect with Swirl users’ interests. Many users will undoubtedly gravitate to offers, so participating marketers should review existing offers and determine the right kind of promotion that will stand out.
Ingenuity: In a market crowded with mobile apps, websites and emails that push e-commerce, Swirl provides a unique opportunity to reach people locally and incentivize in-store traffic. By allowing retailers and brands to serve current deals on seasonable fashions that are redeemable at nearby stores, they can not only target shoppers by what they like, but by where they are, or where they’re going. Swirl can also provide research into consumer behavior and connect activity happening online, via mobile devices and in-store.
Value: Wrapp is a global social gifting service that offers free and paid gift cards people can send to their friends through Facebook and email. In the most common use case, brands offer gift cards of at least $5 that are free for consumers to send. Cards are targeted to the recipient based on Facebook profile information, so a retailer can, for example, ensure that gifts are only given to women ages 25 to 40 in select markets. Gift givers often have the option of paying to add more value to the card. For 5
the consumer, this is a way to stand out among hundreds of birthday wishes on a friend’s Facebook wall or share gift cards for any occasion. For the marketer, it’s a performance-based marketing program (marketers pay a fee upon redemption, plus the value of the card) that can be used for lead generation, promotions and influencer marketing. • Applicability: Wrapp is primarily targeting retailers, though any brand that sells directly to consumers online or offline can offer Wrapp cards directly. Marketers just need to keep in mind the acquisition costs, or the maximum budget for a promotional offer. • Prominence: Brands that participate in Wrapp become part of a “gift card shopping mall” through its site and mobile app, so users will be presented with a range of brands. Brands have two primary ways of standing out: offering a higher value card, at least relative to a typical price point for products (e.g., a $10 card for Threadless will seem more valuable than a $10 card for Burberry), and promoting the card through its own channels – Facebook being the most logical here. • Ingenuity: There have been many attempts at social gifting and almost all have fallen flat. Wrapp, a Swedish company, has refined its approach in select European markets and is now expanding to the United States with a product that has a clear value proposition for both marketers and consumers. Better still, in several tests redeeming offers online and in stores, it works as promised.
Wrapp is a unique social gifting platform that allows people to append giftcards to everyday social greetings, such as birthday wishes. (Image via Wrapp)
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