Tapping into Touchpoints: 5 Questions with Tapcentive CEO Dave Wentker

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One of the key takeaways from last month’s National Retail Foundation (NRF) 2015 Big Show, where Levi’s and other brands and vendors shared their visions for the future of retail, is the move towards in-location engagement technologies via retail mobile apps.

Retail mobile app usage has surged since last year, when “retail was the star of the show,” according to eMarketer. “Lifestyle and shopping mobile app usage soared 174% on iOS (where the “lifestyle” category includes more than shopping) and Android. On Android alone, sessions in shopping apps more than tripled, with a 220% gain.”

The worldwide mobile app audience is projected to surpass 2 billion this year, and is on track to exceed 3 billion by 2018, according to 451 Research estimates.

It’s a pivotal moment for brands and marketers to access omnichannel consumers in innovative ways, and Tapcentive is doing just that.[more]

The in-location mobile marketing platform connects brands’ brick-and-mortar locations with their mobile apps, enabling retailers to deliver targeted, gamified incentives via touchpoints, near-field communication (NFC) and bluetooth low energy-enabled devices, at a shopper’s tap.

Tapcentive’s strategic positioning is that “brands should shift their mobile in-location strategies to facilitate consumer-originated interactions. In other words, give consumers a choice. This can be accomplished through the use of visible, interactive touchpoints that can deliver relevant and personal content and rewards.”

We asked Dave Wentker, CEO of Tapcentive, about the advances in retail mobile technology.

brandchannel: What are your top takeaways from the NRF 2015 Big Show?

Dave Wentker: A clear focus on mobile engagement in all its different forms is a definite priority for all retailers. Faced with a variety of increasingly complex technologies and a growing number of mobile devices in consumers’ hands, retailers need to quickly learn what works and what doesn’t work. Their task is to get through that learning phase without investing a lot so they can move rapidly to an effective mobile marketing solution.With the launch of Apple Pay, it’s clear that retailers are now thinking more seriously about what they’re going to do with two engagement technologies: iBeacon and NFC. With NFC, consumers can make something happen by tapping their phones, and that’s a new behavior for them. Retailers are just starting to understand that like beacon technology, NFC can be used to engage and influence customers well before they arrive at the point of sale.

bc: How can retailers innovate better with mobile?

Wentker: Keep it simple. Understand that smartphones are the most personal of personal devices owned by today’s consumers, and they want control over them. They want to know that they’re choosing what happens on their devices. Brands and retailers can offer incentives and messages that encourage consumers to engage, but keep it simple and let them make the first move.

bc: How do you turn short-term engagement into long-term brand loyalty?

Wentker: Short-term engagement becomes long-term loyalty when consumers have technologies that are easy to learn, easy to use and deliver  predictable results that are surprisingly satisfying. Training customers in a world of hidden beacons is a challenge because it’s not an experience customers can control or rely on. When the technology becomes visible and consumers learn that a tap equals a fun and rewarding experience, they will want to engage again and again.

bc: What did you learn from your previous experience at VISA that you’re bringing to Tapcentive?

Wentker: Having worked with nearly every available mobile commerce technology on a global basis, we learned that it’s possible to remove the complexity of the consumer’s mobile experience by keeping it very simple. We learned that the tap gesture is a very powerful, simple way for consumers to understand that they can initiate some kind of service or activity from their smartphone and then control it once the engagement has begun.

At Tapcentive, we’re taking that simplicity used for payments and applying it to the world of mobile marketing. While the concept of tap-based engagement is simple, the execution proved challenging as we couldn’t rely solely on NFC due to the diverse technologies in mobile devices. For that reason, we are using NFC and beacon technologies to enable the same simple engagement experience across iPhones and Android smartphones.

bc:  What’s beyond the beacon?

Wentker: The simple answer is NFC. Marketers outside of the US have used NFC for a number of years, and those in the US are now following suit, thanks to Apple’s adoption of the technology. US marketers are learning that NFC is another tool they should leverage beyond payments—something that’s different from beacons and offers complementary opportunities and engagement possibilities.

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