We’re changing pace a little bit in today’s episode, talking about the new advances in marketing technology and automation.
Marketers barely have enough time as it is to get their own work done, let alone invest the added time in researching the latest innovations in marketing tech.
That’s exactly why we reached out to today’s guest, Andrew Borella, Director of Business Development for Zenreach out of San Francisco. Zenreach is a super interesting company, working to quantify the foot traffic to grocery stores and restaurants as a result of your digital marketing efforts.
They’ve received some pretty substantial investments lately, and after this interview, I think you’ll start to understand why.
Alex: Andrew, welcome to the show.
Andrew: Thanks, I’m excited to be here. Appreciate you having me on.
Alex: So, can you tell our guests just a little bit about your background and then we’ll get into a bit more about Zenreach?
Andrew: Certainly. So, I spent a number of years working at Safeway, the grocery chain’s corporate headquarters in a variety of capacities. I started off on the strategy team kind of looking at a holistic approach of where we could add value at the stores, and then moved over to the marketing side where I actually focused a lot more on consumer demand and working with our CPG partners to figure out ways that we could do more business together, so really enjoyed my experience there.
Wanted to get into technology, so moved over to a company that worked in the Wi-Fi analytic space for a number of years, so calling on and working with restaurants, retailers, shopping centers, trying to help them understand the way that their customers interact in the physical locations. And then joined the Zenreach team to kind of help build out the partnerships and channel distribution model here.
Alex: One of the big challenges of brick and mortar stores, that they’re facing, is that that measurement of all this digital and social media, all the different platforms that are emerging and are extremely valuable tools, but it’s just so tough to measure foot traffic. And so, I wanted to have somebody on the show like yourself who could kinda speak to that. Could you give a little bit of background about Zenreach and, really, what it is that you guys do?
Andrew: Certainly. So, Zenreach is a Wi-Fi-powered marketing automation and consumer engagement platform. Our goal is really to help our customers start to monetize their guest Wi-Fi. Primarily, Wi-Fi is viewed by brick and mortar locations as an IT infrastructure cost that’s not necessarily something that’s driving a tremendous amount of value for the business, but is an amenity that guests have come to expect within the physical locations.
And so, our goal is really to take that view of it being their infrastructure cost and kind of flip it on its head and turn it into something that is really viewed as a value driver for the business. And so, what we end up doing is helping our customers collect information from their customers, contact details so that they can more effectively engage with them via the Wi-Fi, and enable them to create automated messaging throughout our platform that sends to their customers, based upon how often they visit, with the idea being that, ultimately, customers want to be engaged with in a way that is relevant to their visit behavior.
And so, within our system, merchants can set up these automated messages that are crated with that cohort in mind, and ultimately delivered on behalf of the business automatically.
And the final piece is really helping our customers understand how effective those marketing messages are at driving traffic to location. To your point, historically, in brick and mortar locations, it’s been extremely difficult to actually understand the effectiveness of their digital campaigns. And so, leveraging what we refer to as the walk-through rate, we can actually help our customers understand, of the people that we’re engaged with, how many of those people came walking back into the business within seven days to really close the loop between that online marketing and that offline visit.
Alex: And so, is the tracking done mainly through email, or how does that all work?
Andrew: So, essentially, customers authenticate into the Wi-Fi network or log into the Wi-Fi network using either their email address, social media account if they used to do that, or a mobile phone number. And we’re able to make a connection there with the device that they use to log in, which allows us to really understand the way that people are interacting over time.
So, as people have visited previously and visit in the future, we’re able to often understand how often those people are showing up, which enables, obviously, our customers to curate specific messaging to their customer base based upon those visits.
Alex: If someone is receiving a digital campaign, whether it’s through Facebook, whether it’s through an email, you guys are able to tie that directly to foot traffic. Is that correct?
Andrew: Yeah, our primary motive of communication today is through email. We’re experimenting with SMS marketing, potentially, obviously, moving it to social in the future, but the primary mode of communication today is through email. And we’re able to, obviously, create attribution when an email’s been sent and actually show our customers, of the people that a message was sent to, who actually came walking back into the doors of that business.
Alex: And so, is that…somebody logs into Wi-Fi, they wanna do some browsing while they’re in the restaurant, in the store. And they go back, they end up submitting their email. They receive an email two weeks later and then they come back into the store. Do they have to log back into Wi-Fi, or how does that work?
Andrew: No, they don’t have to log back in. So, it’s important to note that when someone logs in the Wi-Fi, there are terms and conditions. They would accept those terms and conditions, kinda opt in to the marketing messaging. When that person comes back to the location, they’ll automatically be re-authenticated to the network because we’ll be able to recognize their device. It’s kind of how, like when you’re moving around, you notice that your phone asks you if you wanna connect to these five networks.
Your phone and Wi-Fi are always talking to one another, and so when someone’s logged in at one of our merchants’ businesses that first time, every subsequent visit after that, they’ll automatically log back in which allows us to understand when that person’s back in the business.
Alex: That’s kind of creepy, but awesome for marketers. I’m sure that, just within all the terms and conditions, you’re being tracked wherever you go into Wi-Fi, basically, it sounds like.
Andrew: We’re able to understand, obviously, what happens within that specific business. So, the idea, obviously, is that as a consumer you’re opting in to receive these messages because you want to receive the messages, consumers have the ability to opt out of email marketing should they choose to want to remove themselves. It’s interesting to note, though, that the scale of opt out rates…our opt out rates are, in terms of the unsubscribes and the email messages, are under 1%.
And I think the reason that that’s the case is people are typically logging into the Wi-Fi and kind of signing up for the services at businesses that they want to hear from, and when they’re receiving messages from these businesses, again, because they’re relevant, contextualized, based upon how often they visit, they actually kind of look forward to the messages. And a lot of our merchants are actually rewarding customers for the repeat visit.
So, if you think about it, the first time someone logs on, they might be greeted with a message that says, “Hey, Alex, thanks for coming in. We really appreciate your business. We’d love to hear some feedback from you. Click here and fill out a survey and let us know how we did,” which I think people appreciate. And then on the second visit, it might be, “Hey, Alex, we really appreciate you coming back in. We know you have a lot of choices, so we appreciate you choosing us as your destination.” And then maybe on your 5th or your 10th visit, they’ll actually reward you with a coupon and say, “Here’s a free drink on us.” So, again, I think the fact that our messaging is relevant and personalized really drives a lot of interest and engagement from the end customer.
Alex: And so, with your background working in marketing with Safeway’s corporate office, are you able to communicate the benefit better, just knowing the difficulty of gauging the effectiveness of certain digital campaigns?
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, I think the primary mode of measuring success within a brick and mortar location, historically, has been understanding if the raw traffic count has increased or decreased. And as the world of the retail evolves, more and more CPGs, and retailers and restaurants are focused on creating a personalized experience for guests, one that obviously is relevant to them. And without actually knowing who that person is that’s shopping with you, it’s almost impossible to do that, right? And so online, you’ve got all this information about who that individual is and curate this really personalized experience for them, but it’s hard to attribute whether or not that drives traffic into your location. If you think about it, the majority, the vast majority of people, are doing research online and spending their time online. But over 90% of the commerce in the U.S. still happens in physical locations. And so there’s really a disconnect between those two worlds and bridges need to be made to kind of connect those two worlds, and that’s what we’re aiming to do here.
Alex: And so, it’s a really interesting technology, and you guys have secured some pretty large investments over the past few years and have gotten some significant board members that have joined. So, you guys are starting to really build some awareness and capture some attention of some big players.
Andrew: Yeah. I think, for us, the customers that work with us are seeing a ton of benefit from our solution. Obviously, the idea of providing that amenity that customers are looking for in Wi-Fi, that’s kinda step one. And it’s really, really easy to get signed up with our solution. We’ll shift you, essentially, a box that’s plug and play. You plug it in, you get on the phone with one of our specialists that are really [inaudible 00:09:10] pros as it relates to setting up these relevant campaigns and making sure that you’ve got the right contextual marketing messages built into the platform to let it run itself.
And then, ultimately, if you think about our solution, a lot of our customers view our technology as their hardest-working, most accountable marketing employee who just happens to work 24/7, 365 days a year in the background, right? And so, for a small business, the majority of our customers are small businesses that don’t necessarily have the bandwidth to be spending on building out robust marketing campaigns. Our solution really eases a pain point for them and allows them to be very strategic with their marketing, but not have to spend a tremendous amount of time having to put together those campaigns.
Alex: And so, do you guys have any case studies of the effectiveness of, one, of your service, and maybe the value of what capturing an email means to a small business, or just any business?
Andrew: There are numbers that are thrown out there, such as for each email that’s captured that’s worth anywhere from \$10 to \$25, depending on who you’re talking to for a business, there’s inherent value in capturing an email address and being able to communicate with your customers. And our solution, if you look at what our customers were doing in terms of collection pre-deploying Zenreach and what they’re doing post-deploying Zenreach, we’re seeing that most of our partners are actually gathering five times the amount of email addresses by leveraging our solution. There’s really no elegant way to request an email address. A lot of these companies have been collecting business cards in a fishbowl that sits on their counter or manually inputting the email addresses that are captured from their customers into the system. And again, our solution obviously makes that a lot more seamless. And then obviously, with the automation and being able to close the loop between messaging that’s being sent out and people visiting the location, we can actually show the business within our dashboard, how much incremental revenue is driven by our product.
And I think that’s a really powerful tool, right? If you’re a small business owner who is investing in a solution and you wanna make sure that it’s driving value for you, you log into our platform, the first page you’re gonna see is gonna show you that revenue that was driven by our solution. That kind of works across the board, right? Being able to really prove to the marketing teams the effectiveness of their campaigns and build out a much more tangible ROI on their digital efforts, I think, is where we start to really drive value.
Alex: That all makes sense. I’m just trying to make the connection between how you’re able to aggregate the transactional data to associate the foot traffic with a certain transaction.
Andrew: Yeah. So, with hospitality customers, you know, the majority of, say, hospitality in restaurant or bars, I mean, even groceries 100%, right? They’re gonna know what their average order price is, and so you can obviously take the traffic that’s driven by our solution then multiply that by the average order price to calculate the incremental revenue. But another interesting thing that we’ve done to really tie that one-to-one attribution and start to, I think, really fill out that full funnel is we’ve formed relationships with POS companies where we can integrate our solution with theirs, and ultimately, show that we marketed to this specific person, that person showed up at the business, that person purchased something, and this is how much they purchased. And so, as we evolve we’ll continue to do those integrations with the point of sale companies.
Alex: That’s really interesting, and so valuable, especially with the new capabilities of Facebook that are coming out where they’re starting to monitor and trying to make the connections between the ads that you see and the foot traffic.
Andrew: Yeah, definitely. And I think it’s really the marketing holy grail, right, which is I advertise to you in the digital world and then I’m able to prove to you that that impacted your decisions in the physical world. That’s a big gap that we think we can fill.
Alex: Just out of curiosity, when somebody goes into a store and, say, they forgot to switch their phone off airplane mode for some reason, does it still capture that person’s visit?
Andrew: We’re only capturing when someone actually logs into the Wi-Fi We strictly work with opt in data where someone has actually went through the captive portal and provided their information. That’s the type of information that we provide. Their are solutions out there that will aggregate all of that passive information and provide analytics back to customers. That’s not a solution that we provide.
Alex: Zenreach is an incredible platform and I’ve told so many people about it, just because it’s such a great example of, “Look at the capabilities in where marketing is going,” and you have to be starting to do some research into what’s out there. This solution, for example, is just an incredible automation opportunity that saves so much time for business owners, whether they’re large or small, whether it’s an enterprise solution or a small business. Is there anything else, having been entrenched in the industry, that is emerging that’s caught your eye lately?
Andrew: Yeah, definitely. I think the evolution of the point of sales into more of a cloud solution that enables a server at the restaurant to walk up to the table with an iPad and, ultimately, take orders directly from the iPad, run the credit card through that reader that’s connected to the iPad and ultimately have a very seamless experience that doesn’t require my credit card disappearing for 10 to 15 minutes. I’ve seen a lot of those types of solutions pop up and I think, obviously, the underlying technology there that’s reliant is something that we’re obviously big fans of, which is Wi-Fi. So, I’ve seen a lot of that. And I think a lot of the loyalty apps that just run off your credit card so you don’t necessarily have to enter in a loyalty card number or, potentially, provide a physical card to the merchant is also very interesting. There’s a lot going on because it’s a very crowded space, and I think you’ve seen the evolution from traditiona,l retail analytics which have moved and started with your traffic count, right? Just understanding how many people were walking into the location, which enabled you to create a conversion to more advanced traffic analytics where there might be multiple cameras around the location that are looking at the hotspots and the dead zones in a location, and helping marketing teams optimize the merchandising or the layout of a location. And it’s gonna be really interesting to see how the industry evolves over time.
Alex: Again, back to your experience trying to increase the sales volume of these different CPG products within a Safeway, is there use or do you foresee there being use for a CPG company to somehow integrate with Zenreach or is it more the brick and mortar store owner?
Andrew: No, I think there will be a time and use for CPGs. As I think about what I always discuss with my CPG partners in my past life, which was how do we understand and impact decisions that are being made at the point of purchase? So, if I’m from Nestle and I’m competing with the [inaudible 00:15:46] of the world, I might want to be able to understand that one of my consumers is walking past my items right now and, ultimately, deliver them in real time a message or an offer that helps to impact their decision on whether or not they’re gonna buy my product or my competitor’s product. And so, as a CPG, being able to understand who is in the physical location, and then, ultimately, provide a very personalized offer to them to try to incentivize that behavior while they’re in the physical store, I think that’s hugely impactful. And I think the future of brick and mortar retail will be a working partnership between the physical location, which obviously is gonna house the infrastructure, and then the brands or the CPGs that work with those companies and sell through those companies, and being able to empower them to ultimately deliver a message or an offer to the customer as they’re walking down the cereal aisle, right? So, those types of things are really interesting.
Alex: Again, being in the industry, I’m sure you’ve got certain publications that you’re more in tuned to than, say, the average restaurant or CPG marketer. Where do you normally get your tech news and what are some credible sources that you typically key in on?
Andrew: Technology-wise, it’s always “TechCrunch,” but in terms of the restaurant and retail world, it’s always the “National Restaurant Association,” the “National Retail Federation,” keeping an eye on companies like Foodable. There’s a lot of interesting publications out there, “Streetsight” is an interesting online publication that does a lot of work in the retail world. And then, just generally, I find that setting up Google or some specific types of things that I’m interested in really surface up some of the more niche publications that, potentially, have a lot more insight into things than some of the bigger guys.
Alex: Well, Andrew, I really appreciate your time and you elaborating a little further on what Zenreach does and what’s available to people who are really looking to quantify what their marketing spend is going to, and providing that extra value of actually getting something out of providing Wi-Fi that’s measurable.
Andrew: Certainly. Yeah, appreciate you having me on and I’m happy to discuss further with folks that might be interested in exploring a little bit more about how we can work together.
Alex: Yeah. So, how best can people get in touch with you?
Andrew: You can contact me via email. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully, we can spell it out on the website because it’s kind of long, or go to www.zenreach.com and get a contact us form or call our sales line and someone will take care of you.
Alex: That sounds great. Well thanks again, and I appreciate it and I can’t wait to see where Zenreach goes next.