One could be forgiven, especially in early January, for thinking the American economy has migrated more to online shopping than it actually has. Surprisingly, 94 percent of commerce is still conducted OFFline.
The main reason is time and effort. Most industries are still trying to create frictionless links between online ads and what are mostly offline commercial operations.
Jon Carder says he has the answer. Mr. Carder is the CEO and co-founder of a pair of companies which help other companies tap into online commerce.
Mogl is an app helping restaurants attract customers during slower periods by offering time-sensitive discounts.
People download Mogl and link their charge and debit cards to the app. Discounts and points are sent directly to your phone, bypassing coupons which can kill the buzz on a date or at an important business lunch.
Restaurants only have to register on Mogl and post offers — Mogl infrastructure does the rest.
Empyr extends Mogl beyond restaurants. Any type of business can post an offer online which attracts customers to their location. The business gets a new revenue stream and the customer earns points which can be redeemed for rewards. Advertisers pay cash back and a fee which is shared between Empyr and the online publisher.
The concept works for the single-family-owned restaurant and the multinational. Facebook feed offers draw users to nearby restaurants and shops. Consumers can use points earned at Empyr restaurants to buy Microsoft products. They can get free flights and upgrades with Virgin America through points earned at restaurants and retail shops.
An intensely competitive online environment means a company has to be unique in order to separate themselves and Mr. Carder’s companies use gamification to do just that.
“Gamification is a useful tool to keep customers engaged in a consumer-facing environment,” Mr. Carder explained. “But it must be designed right. Gamify what you want customers to do.”
Empyr’s concept has been simple since it began, Mr. Carder said. Develop a concept which attracts consumers by providing value with minimal effort. Create ties with search engines, bank websites and other high-traffic sites. Provide an accessible online presence for those companies struggling to do so or established ones looking for a new revenue stream.
Mr. Carder is confident the concept will work, so confident companies posting offers only pay for new customers who actually walk in the door and buy. The concept worked at Mogl so he believes it will extend to Empyr.
“We learned restaurants buying pay-for-click advertising had no idea how effective it was,” Mr. Carder explained. “When restaurants only paid for sales we learned it is a very valuable tool.”
More than 500 restaurants in California have seen greater than $100 million of new sales, Mr. Carder said. Extrapolate that to 50 states and more industries. That potential has attracted 20 Empyr partners with another 10 on the way.
Mr. Carder is one of a growing number of young entrepreneurs who believe commerce can also be socially beneficial. Nonprofits can create campaigns where people can opt to give all or part of their savings to a cause. When someone receives notification of savings on their phone, they can choose a campaign and a donation amount with a few touches on their screen. The most successful campaigns leverage pre-existing active social networks to create a viral campaign which is effortless to support.
It takes more than great deals and the opportunity to do something good to create a successful product, Mr. Carder said.
“A good product can be screwed up with friction. Those daily deal sites come with high friction because you have to bring in and show a coupon.”
“We have removed all of the friction.”
That includes for participating staff, who are often not even aware the program is active.
It is now effortless to sustain a profitable marketing channel, Mr. Carder said. It takes a company 10 minutes to link with Empyr, and they can choose their involvement level beyond that. Those with consistent patronage patterns can create hourly offers which can be adjusted to fit supply.
A restaurant may offer little discount during lunch rushes and weekend dinner cycles but can opt for a more substantial offer on Jan. 2 or a slow Monday. Seasonal businesses can do the same thing.
Empyr is active in 18 cities with more on the way, Mr. Carder said. That is only the beginning, as any type of business of any size can easily leverage the power of the Internet.
“We are talking the holy grail here — a $4.5 trillion annual market.”