Everyone likes a spot of shopping, and some more than most. PowaTag from Powa Technologies is a new mobile business platform that integrates the physical and online experience to transform the way we shop and interact with brands. It gives users the gratification of real world shopping from anywhere, and retailers the ability to interact with customers all over the place. Dan Wagner, founder and CEO at Powa Technologies, chats to Smart Chimps about this rather cunning plan:
Smart Chimps: How does PowaTag work?
Dan Wagner: PowaTag enables shoppers to complete purchases anytime, anywhere with their mobile, simply by scanning tags on anything from products to billboards, or even audio tags. Users can complete a purchase in just three seconds, with items being delivered to pre-entered addresses or made available for collection in-store.
The solution combines a number of different technologies into one comprehensive platform. Scans are completed using the smartphone’s camera or microphone and well-established triggers including QR codes, java script, iBeacons, NFC technology or audio tags embedded in broadcast media either live or pre-recorded, while purchases and deliveries are facilitated using pre-entered payment and address information. All sensitive user information is not stored on the mobile device itself, but hosted separately by Powa on a secured PCI Level 1 compliant site.
Alongside this, triggers can be placed around physical stores providing retailers with a unique opportunity to understand how customers spend their time in-store, as well as providing an avenue for context-sensitive messaging and transaction opportunities that can also incorporate a shoppers’ location and preferences.
SC: What sort of reception has it had in the market so far since its launch?
DW: We have had a fantastic level of reception in the market so far, and we are working closely with leading brands and retailers that are excited to bring PowaTag to their customers. At present we have more than 800 signed agreements with companies to deploy around the world, with more coming on board every day.
SC: How important is the ability for people to shop or find information in-between in-store and online?
DW: Consumers are increasingly making it clear that they expect freedom and flexibility as a standard in how they engage with retailers and brands, demonstrated by the fast growth of online and mobile commerce.
24 hour a day accessibility is one of the major draws for online shopping, allowing consumers to make purchases on their own terms. It’s clear that retailers and brands must seek to engage consumers who are no longer content to be bound by the usual 9 to 5 constraints, or risk losing them to more innovative rivals. The UK public has demonstrated a clear hunger for engaging with mobile technology, with 32% having made at least one purchase a month on their smartphone, far outstripping the rest of Europe.
SC: Does the fact that PowaTag is proprietary pose a problem for it in the future, in your opinion?
DW: We see PowaTag’s proprietary nature as a major advantage as it helps to protect our position in the market we are creating. We have essentially created an entirely new sales channel here, similar to the advent of television broadcasting or the introduction of e-commerce in terms of the impact on advertising and retail channels.
Unlike these previous market developments, PowaTag is a privately owned infrastructure that can leverage the merchant and customer traffic in terms of multiple business extensions over and above the transaction itself. Promotions and loyalty, data and analytics – all these opportunities are multi-billion dollar extensions to the core PowaTag opportunity.
Merchants and the brands benefit from PowaTag’s ubiquity. It is actually in their interests to have a single application that is used by a broad section of consumers. That way, for example, if I see an ad from a brand I had not previously bought from, my PowaTag application, downloaded as a result of my engagement with a different brand, can now be used to quickly buy this new product. The same works in the reverse. In addition, if I can walk into a store for the first time and the Beacons and NFC engage with my via my PowaTag app on my phone, that’s also a good thing for me the consumer and the retailer.
SC: Is PowaTag aiming to replace the idea of NFC, or simply to make the most of the NFC ability hype while NFC itself waits for more momentum in the market.
DW: The PowaTag platform has been designed to be very scalable and adaptable for new technology and triggers. This includes provision for NFC as a trigger alongside elements like audio tagging and the use of Bluetooth beacons.
As a result, we are using NFC as yet another way to engage customers with PowaTag for retailers and another way for consumers to shop with PowaTag.
SC: Has NFC failed?
DW: No. Most commentators see NFC as competitive to iBeacons and other methods of payment. We see it as complimentary. We believe NFC makes up the shopping ecosystem and will remain as a way to pay. As a result, PowaTag has embraced NFC as yet another way to use the app to pay.
SC: Will NFC eventually come to massmarket fruition, do you think? Why?
DW: NFC does have a lot of interesting potential uses that could bring it to massmarket success, as demonstrated by the number of innovative trials and pilots over the years. However, to date the main problem has been a lack of education; most consumers still don’t know what NFC is or what advantage it will bring them. This largely comes down to the brands themselves; they need to demonstrate why NFC is something that will add value to their customers.
SC: If NFC does survive over the next couple of years, what shape will its market take versus PowaTag’s?
DW: We work together so we see this outcome as additive to the PowaTag proposition.
SC: How will PowaTag work in the advertising area?
DW: Taking into account the fast growth of mobile commerce, the advertising sector needs to gear its advertising campaigns towards not just raising awareness of its products, but also actively encouraging and enabling a mobile sale on the spot.
By allowing users to complete a purchase just by tagging items or adverts with their smartphone in just three seconds, PowaTag can transform static advertising such as billboards and magazines into an interactive shopping experience. This will enable a huge range of new sales opportunities at any time of day or night, covering everyone from an early commuter passing a shop window before opening hours, to a crowd waiting for the last bus after a night out.
SC: What’s next for PowaTag?
DW: The future is very exciting for PowaTag. We are continuing to sign new contracts with major brands at a rapid rate, and we are also gearing up for widespread deployment with several leading retailers. Alongside this, the technology itself is continuing to evolve and adapt. Over the next two years, you will see PowaTag have a major impact on both online and traditional commerce, advertising, marketing, and more besides.