New in Retail Tech
Are Uber Eats, Door Dash and Yelp driving Mobile adoption in Retail? YES! I've noted that in multiple new restaurants there are a bevvy of tablets lined up next to the standard POS. In all cases when I asked the manager why the collection of tablets- they explained this is how they are managing the "in store" component of order on line apps. It seems that consumers have crossed a tipping point with a reduction in phone in orders (using a paper menu kept at home?) and instead they are going to web sites and delivery applications to put in their orders. The app providers then give the restaurant the tablet to manage the orders, interface with their kitchen management systems and then facilitate payment/tracking of the order. While this approach is controlled and it works- I had to wonder at the cost it is driving for the delivery companies and the need to someday consolidate these into one tablet versus having two feet of counter space consumed by tech. I guess the old adage is true - with new technologies come new challenges. One thing is for sure- mobile is the playground for new experiences.
New in Payments and FinTech
The industry is now working diligently to look at the benefits and risks of the new PCI standards for Software based Pin entry on (Consumer) Mobile devices. January 24th the PCI Council announced the new standard which for small to micro merchants will give them low cost solutions for accepting payment cards. This will help companies like Square in the US or iZettle in Europe use standard consumer smart phones with a secure dongle- and allow PIN entry on the device. The concern is it will not be as secure as the prior regulations and the adoption of this into mid size (Tier 2-4) merchants is yet to be seen. Will they risk their brand reputation on a possible breach or instead opt for Enterprise grade solutions that are marginally more expensive?
In February I had the pleasure of traveling to Stockholm, Sweden for business meetings. I was able to also meet up with executives from Sam Invest- the Investment arm of the Swedish government. The charter for Sam Invest is to grow the economy by enabling funding of successful, scaling early stage companies. Their strategy has shifted in the last year to now providing matching funds to deals led by private angel investors. The pool of funds available for indirect investment is 3B SEK. My host, Erik Wijnblad also shared with me the latest stats out of the EU on the Finance front. Based on the last report France leads the EU zone in VC level investments. However the DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) region was the fastest growing hitting .9B EU in VC deal funding- the highest in 10 years. Also notable is the VC activity in the Nordics- in 1H'16 this hit 1.2B Euros. The last time investment levels were this high it was 2007. The weather may have been cold and snowy on this visit- but the people were warm and friendly as always!
New in Hospitality
On January 30th I had the pleasure of attending the Venture Madness competition sponsored by Invest Southwest. This competition featured twenty six companies in four categories with the final winners collecting $30,000 in prize money and exposure to over 20 investment firms for further financing. Two that I thought were spot on to the future of retailing were Gyde and Seek, and Janiis. Headquartered out of Park City, Utah and led by two women founders, Gyde and Seek enables a traveler to be matched with a personal guide to hit on the exact experience they want to get out of that location. They already have established guides across many cities in Latin America (ex- Sao Paolo, Santiago) or Eastern Europe (ex- Prague, Budapest). This enables at “consumer prices” a concierge experience. This hits on both the experience driven economy but also the personalization themes that are driving the future of Hospitality. The second interesting startup was Janiis (they also were a top four finalist). This SAAS Platform enables the Air B&B or Booking.com property owners to integrate and manage all the execution modules to run the business. From taking reservations, managing changes to bookings, repairing facilities and cleaning/turnaround for next guests the Janiis platform has it integrated. It also has APIs that allow the user to port data to other applications if they have a favorite application they like to use for say, book keeping. Why I think this is unique as it hits on the trend of “Mega Apps” – enabling the property manager to seamlessly work different aspects of the business in one, cloud based solution. It also is very user centric in its design and allows for worker productivity in executing the not so glamorous life of execution in the hospitality industry.
New in Event Venues
As marketing moves from print and TV to digital mediums the tools for digital marketers have not kept pace. I was introduced to a startup out of Las Vegas, FLYE back in November. I have been following their progress these last few months as they have added customers and enable more brands to connect with their customer base via Twitter and Instagram social media. FLYE provides a platform for digital marketers to engage with their audience in ways never imagined. The digital marketer can select a targeted geo location- and then tailor a campaign or interaction with specific personas of customers within that location. For example- one NFL team used the FLYE platform to listen to what fans were saying during the games. One proud father tweeted it was his son's first game! The NFL Team had a marketing expert on it- they offered the father to come by a booth after the game for a surprise. So he did- and he was rewarded with a free jersey for his son. Insert #FansForLife hash tag! This level of emotional engagement is very sticky for brands and enables them in a laser focused way to engage the audience. I'm excited to see what other event venues, music producers and music artists adopt this new tool. I can only imagine the interesting things retailers, restaurants and brands can do with a tool like this to enable productive engagement with their brand. Note I'm such a believer I have made an angel investment in FLYE—I will see first hand how well they scale.
I hope you have enjoyed my first quarterly review. I will be at Shoptalk in March 2018 so if you want to connect in person I’d be happy to meet up! If not, you can follow me on social media to stay in touch - and certainly let me know what aspects of this newsletter you enjoyed!