Sometimes, consumers want to buy the most simple and boring things. And they want to do it in the most tech-savvy way but don’t realize what they’re asking.
Think about it: Buying a basic appliance, like a vacuum cleaner, takes more thought to pick out, but when you want it, you probably already need it.
“GPShopper came to life after we realized the untapped potential of mobile apps to help consumers shop — all the way back to the days of Motorola Razr phones,” said Alex Muller, CEO and cofounder of GPShopper. “We realized that savvy retailers understood the need to innovate beyond simply moving their catalogs to mobile devices.”
As consumers spend more time online, on their phones and on social media, the more the retailer feels the pressure to meet those customers in that space. And it all comes down to data and analytics.
GPShopper was launched in 2007 by Muller and Maya Mikhailov — who both worked in the digital world of the 2000s — as a way to offer loyalty, engagement and related elements that customers historically appreciate about the in-store experience but want also in an app: from loyalty programs, content, social, in-store systems and mobile payments, to creating an app. Muller said: “We wanted to build a platform that helped retailers do it all on mobile.”
As for the founding of the company, Muller and Mikhailov spoke to the quirky story of a snowy day and wanting to buy a new vacuum cleaner.
“Like many people, we wanted to buy it that Sunday afternoon, but we wanted the digital experience of browsing for the best deal, reviews and product information but with the benefits of in-store shopping, where we could touch, feel and take home the product,” said Muller. “That experience sparked the idea that would later evolve into GPShopper, a platform where consumers can use their mobile devices to facilitate the entirety of their shopping experience.”
GPShopper’s platform creates custom, retailer-specific native mobile apps that aim to interact and engage with specific customers in a mobile-focused lifestyle. The company seeks to drive customer engagement in and out of store and online and has worked with retailers like PacSun, Steve Madden, A.C. Moore and True Religion. Much of the work has been to help build retailers’ mobile payment capabilities.
“Mobile payments play a major role in developing customer engagement and loyalty,” said Muller. “For retailers, these offerings are becoming more important, as more shoppers are turning to mobile for purchases than ever before.”
Besides retailers, GPShopper has worked with financial institutions, such as Synchrony Financial, for in-app mobile credit experiences — both with Synchrony brands and the bank’s retail partners via the SyPI (AKA Synchrony Plugin) solution.
Muller touted that, with the GPShopper platform, “retailers typically experience 150 percent growth in revenue year over year and 20 minutes of monthly engagement per user.”
The company started with 10 people working in a 500-square-foot windowless office and has grown to nearly 80 people, with offices in Chicago and New York City.
Muller said GPShopper’s biggest hurdles have been similar to many companies in that the navigating of simple tasks — similar to purchasing a vacuum cleaner — isn’t as easy as it seems.
“Growth comes in spurts, and managing each growth as they come is a challenge,” said Muller. “Learning to hire and retain the right people at the right time is probably the biggest challenge any successful startup overcomes.”
But ultimately, GPShopper sees the results when it boils down to working with real customers. Muller said his proudest moment came when he was on a flight and started up a conversation with a total stranger who was using a GPShopper app on their phone.
“She took out her phone, opened it and said, ‘You built this Michaels app? It’s awesome. I use it all the time. It gives me great family crafting ideas, and I love the coupons,’” said Muller. “We have come to realize that there are tens of millions of Americans, just like that busy mom, using GPShopper apps and benefiting from our efforts.”
That adoption, as we know, takes time. However, Muller said he is optimistic that the experience will indeed become frictionless.
“Retail, with some additional technology, can get [as] frictionless as [Uber],” said Muller. “Many have talked about the ability to walk in to a store and walk out wearing the cloth you want without ever pulling out your wallet or standing in line at register, and that will be possible soon.”
But at the end of the day, Muller said the company is built on people who are consumers themselves and added that every consumer brand will eventually have a mobile-centric perspective if it wants to create loyalty.
“I will use it for all aspects of my relationship to the brand, from loyalty, credit, purchases, browsing and offers. I will expect that this mobile-centric app experience is completely personalized,” said Muller. “It’s less about me visiting an app like Target to see what Target has in terms of offers or deals, but it will be about what Target is offering me, given my location, preferences, shopping history, even time of year and weather outside.”