Shopper Futures: Using Wi-Fi to track customer behaviour

Turnstyle Solutions' Ryan Freeman on monetizing an established Wi-Fi network

In August, Mondelez announced eight startups selected to participate in the company’s Shopper Futures program – a mobile marketing initiative that partners tech and mobile startups with retailers to transform the consumer retailer experience. The startups now work together with retailers in collaboration with Mondelez to bring in-market pilots to life over 90 days.

We spoke with Ryan Freeman, senior director, partnerships and business development of Turnstyle Solutions– one of the four Canadian startups chosen to participate in the program. Turnstyle Solutions will be working to develop a digital sampling pilot with the Mondelez Cadbury brand and Mac’s Conveniene Stores (Ontario division).

How, when, and most importantly, why was your company created?

Back in 2012, Co-founders Devon Wright and Matt Hunter had a band that performed regularly around downtown Toronto. They wanted to reward loyal fans with anything from free tickets to their next show, to a simple ‘thank you’ for showing their patronage. The problem was finding a consistent way to measure loyalty. As you can imagine, checking into Foursquare or Facebook isn’t always a priority (or even a thought) for fans caught up in the excitement of a sold out show. As it turns out, almost every one of their fans essentially had a beacon in their pocket, broadcasting their presence using their Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone. After hours of research, they figured out how to record and measure the Wi-Fi signals emitted from smartphones and differentiate them from other devices, thus measuring fan loyalty without their fans having to do anything. From there, it quickly evolved into a way of not only measuring engagement, but also actively communicating with them.

How does your technology work?

Turnstyle's technology works by detecting Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices within a venue to inform store management—and the brands that they partner with—about patterns in consumer traffic, visit duration and visit frequency.

Any guests that sign into the Turnstyle-powered Wi-Fi network become eligible to receive automated, proximity-triggered messages and coupons in real-time, since we can detect them upon entering the geo-fenced boundaries.

How does it improve the consumer retail experience?

Turnstyle has the ability to help grocers increase visit frequency and reduce churn by sending customers contextual messages and coupons. This also enhances the consumer experience by rewarding them for their loyalty with messages that are— by the very nature of being proximity triggered—personalized and relevant to them.

What makes it different from similar technologies on the market?

The main differentiator with Turnstyle is that we use existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to push messages via email or SMS versus Bluetooth or beacon technologies that require new hardware installation and mobile app development and engagement. Leveraging existing, ubiquitous infrastructure means there is no investment required to get going. Using popular communication methods like SMS and email means there is no hurdle for consumers to deal with such as downloading a retailer-specific or brand-specific app.

Why do you think retailers should use your technology?

The power of proximity and personalization has significant effects on coupon redemption – we’ve seen an average of 15% redemption rates versus 1-3% industry average for direct mail coupons. And, coupon redemptions (or other active calls-to-action) have an enormously significant impact on the long-term loyalty and behavior patterns of consumers. All in all, deploying and using Turnstyle’s platform on Wi-Fi infrastructure makes for consumers who return more often and spend more time in the store.

What’s your game plan for Shopper Futures?

Turnstyle’s continued focus is on helping retailers provide better shopping experiences. We are devoting resources to build tools to help retailers understand which types of engagements resonate most effectively with consumers, and are experimenting with predictive models to help retailers proactively create marketing campaigns to send the most relevant messages to the right customers and the right times.

Has knowing the retailer and brand you’ll be working with influenced your approach to bringing the pilot to life? Why is your technology particularly useful to them?

Absolutely. Working with retail partners in the convenience space has allowed us to focus our strategy on the impulse purchases that are high margin and can often make or break a chain’s monthly results. Our focus will be on ensuring customers return frequently and increase their basket sizes, driven by the impulse snack purchases that the Mondelēz family of brands is so well known for.
What are your growth plans? Where do you see the company in, say, five years?

Turnstyle is all about connecting the online world to the offline world. As of right now, that means helping restaurants and retailers build deeper profiles on their customers and cater to individual needs in order to improve the customer experience. The bigger vision is to be part of the internet of things (IoT) movement and use Turnstyle’s location-aware technology to improve our cities, countries and hopefully the world.

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