Beacon technology has kicked into high gear for the past couple of years, with companies like PayPal and Apple introducing ways to help track what customers are doing in stores. And while reports suggest that beacons aren’t working, it hasn’t kept startups from trying. One in particular, Notify Nearby, today launched an iOS consumer app to show that the technology can work.
What Notify Nearby does is provide shoppers with targeted information about the stores they’re in, giving them the inside scoop on the retailer in real time. Chief executive Nevin Jethmalani told VentureBeat that his company’s app offers rewards to shoppers just for sharing the app, while providing a list of participating stores to explore. This is a Notify Nearby-branded app, not a white-labeled one. Jethmalani explained that only about 5 percent of shoppers download a store’s native app, but Notify Nearby provides a single app that rolls up merchant offers and information.
Retailers request customized beacons from Notify Nearby, each of which can be modified remotely. The content displayed when a customer passes by a device is managed by Notify Nearby’s proprietary system, although Jethmalani said that the company plans to integrate with digital asset management platforms and marketing tools in the future. For now, he claimed, “Creating a post is as simple as creating a Facebook post.”
The use case here is if you’re a fan of one of the participating retailers, such as American Eagle Outfitters, Banana Republic, DKNY, JCPenney, Lucky Brand, Oakley, and Uniqlo, the information will be sent right when you’re most likely to accept it: when you’re making a purchase. Right now all of the merchants are in the fashion area, so you’re not going to see tech, food, or automotive shops listed in the service, at least right now. All information you receive is opt-in, meaning that you’ll only get notifications from retailers you follow.
So if you happen to be at a shopping mall and pass a bunch of stores, Notify Nearby saves you the irritation of having to look through different apps to find any coupons, specials, or promotions. When the app is opened, it’ll show all the content the retailer has shared, and when the customer passes by a beacon, a push notification will be sent with targeted information.The app doesn’t need to be open for the user to get notified.
Notify Nearby has run beta tests with retailers in New York, and Jethmalani said that its app converted 52 percent of shoppers who received content, persuading them to enter the store. Furthermore, we’re told the service saw a 67 percent engagement rate (industry average is 11 percent).
“Content on our app is not just ads or coupons, but information that a shopper wants to receive. It includes anything from sales and promotions to product launches and partnerships or collaborations,” Jethmalani said. “Our competitors focus on coupons or pushing products and having retailers spend money for ad space. We focus on giving every brand on our app the same experience.” He cited Shopkick, Miner, RetailMeNot, and Spring as competitors, but said there’s a big difference between what they’re doing and what his company is focusing on:
These apps forgo accuracy of a retailer’s content and/or SPAM their users with ads/promoted content. They also focus on selling products or serving discounts as opposed to providing quality content. We aim to be the only outlet for shoppers to see content from the brands they love. Content on our app is not limited to products and promotions.
And while it’s great that Notify Nearby has a strategy to differentiate itself from its competitors, will it also have a plan for getting people to adopt its technology? “Dedicated brand customers love being treated like VIP members. Notify Nearby provides shoppers with real-time notifications about opportunities available at a time when they find them most relevant,” said Jethmalani. “Notify Nearby also brings a unique and modern day retail experience to the brick and mortar store.”
Notify Nearby raised a $50,000 seed round from friends and family in April.