Everybody wants a deal – but both merchants and consumers want to handle them on their own terms. The more that third-party providers clutter the space by trying to get their piece of the action, the less value local promotions have. Mike Milenko Strika, co-founder of BuyMaster – a local marketing app that has been released in the Boston area – shared with PYMNTS his thoughts on the benefits provided to merchants and consumers from third-party marketing that keeps its involvement to a minimum.
There is no shortage of loyalty apps in the market today and you have introduced one more, starting first in Boston. What makes you unique?
MMS: We bring customers into direct physical contact with local stores and allow local merchants to create customer relationships and build loyalty directly – not with us or some other third-party company. We are mainly an advertising and marketing network, and not so much a daily deals company. We don’t offer any deals on the website or send emails to the customers. It’s a real-time mobile solution that brings two worlds together in a time of need.
Deals will never die, and that’s one of the reasons why online shopping is rising every year. Merchants try to reach customers by using various marketing strategies – third-party marketing, social media advertising, mobile solutions, and so on – to bring them into stores. Many of them have introduced eCommerce solutions to stay in business. Costs can run high and profits can be unattractive at the end of the day. BuyMaster lets merchants keep their deal profits and promote customer in-store purchases, which is proven to lead to an additional purchase by 43 percent. The natural consumer tendency is to save on one thing and while browsing around in a store, looking to buy another. Product tangibility is important and too lives on in consumers' purchasing behavior. It’s a win-win situation for all – even for merchant POS systems, which retain 1 to 3 percent of every purchase transaction.
The app gives online presence within the BuyMaster network, but also on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. When a customer likes a promotion and posts it on their social media accounts, the business will get additional online exposure, even if it is not present online. It’s unique because it combines online and offline reach, since 68 percent of customers say they research online, and 45 percent do so on social media, before making a purchase in a physical store. Plus, shoppers want the best bang for their buck, so deals are what most people want; but researching and finding the right deal can be time consuming, especially when shoppers are on the move.
The app gives merchants the tools to reach various target audiences – whether or not they’re on the go – helping customers discover them and providing insights on competitors. It costs a lot for competition analysis reports, but the app has special algorithms included to give small businesses the numbers they need to better their strategies. Better yet, BuyMaster includes unique features, like in-app messaging from customer to merchant, and comment posting on the platform and on social media about listed offers. This one-of-a-kind direct communication pathway provides better customer service and manages customer relations on behalf of merchants.
Merchants can post during store's non-peak hours to gain walk-in traction. They can get extra shelf inventory into a shopping bag, as well as fill up empty timeslots at the local spa, salon or health club. There is always a chance that an on-the-go shopper is looking to get pampered or buy something at the last minute.
What exactly can merchants accomplish today that they could not before the BuyMaster merchant app was launched?
MMS: It’s hard finding transparent companies that don’t get involved in a small business’ marketing and advertising activities. Currently, it’s very common to have third-party contracts, meeting quotas, and paying commissions when merchants want to advertise a deal or offer for a product or service. BuyMaster is flexible, non-binding and transparent, so local businesses can manage their promotional activities as they see fit – we don’t get involved. The best part is that all posts are done in real-time, allowing promotion whenever and wherever. BuyMaster broadens a merchant’s market exposure to new and loyal customers. Besides just having its promotion on the BuyMaster network, any business can cross their multiple social media accounts as soon as they want it posted. Usually, businesses pay according to specific social media exposure and number of audiences and ads they would like to include in their marketing; BuyMaster doesn’t set a limit.
The app is friendly overall, both tech-wise and cost-wise. A merchant doesn’t need to be a tech expert to get its promotions exposed to target audiences, nor does it need intense training to begin using it – it’s really easy. Merchants can also assign managers in their single- or multiple-city store locations. The app includes analytic tools that they care about most, not just extra stuff they’ll never use. These tools are designed and included to help local merchants analyze their promotions behavior and their customers' engagement, as well as track their competition. It also minimizes advertising workload by including their social media accounts with a couple of clicks.
What about the consumer side? What advantages does the app offer in comparison to other daily deals apps?
MMS: Basically, consumers use the BuyMaster app to personally complement their lifestyles, interests and locations. It suits the busy lifestyle of last minute shopping since it offers keyword entry in the search bar, mapped out deals, customized notifications and a proximity-based system. They don’t need to pay in advance or save coupons, because purchases are done in the actual store. Users even get a personalized dashboard of customized deals that reflect their preferred categories, locations and stores.
As I mentioned before, there are no daily emails, SMS messaging or intrusive ads. BuyMaster offers an advanced push notification system so that each user can adjust it to his or her preferences. In July, we are planning to release Apple and Android applications for wearables, so users can have a quick glance of the deals around them. The customer application release date is June 1.
You are launching in a new city every four months; after Boston, Texas is the next spot. How are cities chosen and what complexities are you expecting to face as you expand?
MMS: That’s right; we’re launching in a new city every four months, with the next one being Austin, Texas, since – like Boston – it’s a great startup environment. After that, our road map includes New York City, San Francisco, Toronto and Chicago. Our strategy is to grow organically…but we might be able to launch in all five cities at once; it depends on the budget.
The complexities will probably be all the same, give or take, just like Boston – with the exception of larger cities like New York. By that time, we believe BuyMaster will be going strong and looked upon very highly by local businesses, so the challenges may be less. It’s not easy, but we believe that local shops are what give a city its culture and character. Online shopping and eCommerce definitely keep growing, but consumers love shopping in-store, and many want unique products from local businesses, or even have established relationships with merchants.
What do merchants need to do to register for this app?
MMS: It’s pretty simple, really. They just need to download it; it’s available for free on both the Apple Store and Google Play. Then they just create a manager account – which they can use as a customer, too – register their company and add one or more locations they have within the Boston area right now. We’re also running a promotion that gives 30 free credits – a $200 value – when registering. One credit equals one day of promotion for one item. In addition to that, merchants can receive more credits with our referral program, at a rate of 1 credit per customer and 10 credits per other business.
Mike Milenko Strika, Co-Founder, BuyMaster
Mike Milenko Strika is graduate of University of Indianapolis and holds a master's degree in Corporate Communication from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus.