To research a product, potential customers may turn to Google. But finding product information can be a bit of a cumbersome process. Consumers may have to scroll through many social media channels or product reviews to make an informed decision, after all.
Enter Shping, an Australian startup seeking to change the way consumers research products — and the way brands market them. The startup originally started as an authentication application to help solve the problem of counterfeit products in the marketplace. But the product evolved into a mobile product search engine for consumers and a marketing tool for brands.
Shping works by enabling consumers to scan a product barcode off the shelf, which it compares to a database of nearly 30 million products. Then consumers can discover whether a product is genuine or if there is a recall for the item — and even learn more about a product’s origins or ingredients.
Changing Customer Behavior
Many consumers are not in the habit of scanning barcodes at their local supermarket or retailer to learn information about a product. As a result, Shping needed to make this action a habit — so it offers digital coins to its users, who take specific actions like offer a product review, register for a warranty or watch a video.
“That sort of perpetuates the behaviors and also creates a new paradigm in terms of marketing because brands can incentive consumers to perform these actions,” Tony Lee, chief marketing officer at Shping, told PYMNTS.
This presents a different marketing tactic than, say, targeted ads online through social media platforms or search engines. In those cases, brands pay a website for access to their audience.
“Product marketers today use Google and Facebook as a middle man — a conduit to reach consumers directly — so they pay Google and Facebook for the privilege of communicating [with] consumers,” Lee said. Instead, “we’re allowing brand owners … to reward consumers directly for their attention.”
Facebook, Google and other platforms also tend to focus on eCommerce. In comparison, Shping helps brands reach customers while they’re shopping offline. As a result, the platform could provide a boost to brick-and-mortar retailers.
“We hope to encourage more people to go back into the retail space, [especially] those who have gotten used to the convenience of finding information in an online context before they make purchases,” Lee said.
Shping comes as brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling in the U.S., particularly in malls. Macy’s plans to shutter approximately 30 stores as it continues to sell its real estate and invest in eCommerce, for example.
But Macy’s is hardly alone in its decision to close some of its brick-and-mortar locations. Ailing specialty retailers like Toys R Us will be shuttering a large number of its retail businesses. H&M and JCPenney have also announced closure plans that will run throughout the year.
And, in the grocery space, consumers are trading the aisles of the grocery store for eCommerce carts. In fact, 70 percent of shoppers will purchase some portion of their groceries online within five to seven years, according to one projection from the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen.
In addition, consumer eCommerce grocery spending could reach $100 billion in five years, greatly impacting grocery shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Lee believes consumers will still shop in-store for some items — like fresh produce. “There will be circumstances where a physical shop is always going to be more beneficial for the consumer,” Lee said.
In a grocer’s brick-and-mortar store, Shping could help consumers learn more about the ingredients of a product off the shelf, a feature that could be particularly helpful for consumers who have special dietary restrictions, like a gluten intolerance.
The Road Ahead
With the advent of stores that offer checkout-free experiences like Amazon Go, where customers can pay with an app and leave the store with what they’ve bought without having to wait to check out, Lee said it’s on Shping’s product roadmap. But he doesn’t see that in the immediate future: Shping doesn’t want to overextend itself.
Going forward, Lee hopes brands will be open to the idea of allowing their products to be exchanged with the same cryptocurrency they use to reward consumers. In essence, Shping hopes to create a positive feedback loop.
Overall, Lee wants Shping to act as a trusted source of information that consumers turn to — like Google. “We want to see Shping as a global brand,” Lee said. And, if companies and consumers sign on to use the service, perhaps it will become one.