Everyone is a potential brand ambassador, but not everyone gets rewarded for his or her endorsements
By Don Hauka
So you’ve launched your new small or medium online business, but don’t know how to reach the motherlode of consumers who you know want your product. How can you possibly compete with all those big boys dominating the e-commerce field?
Rob Goehring can tell you how to connect through all the marketing noise, reach out to your customers as friends and do it all simply and seamlessly.
How? It’s all based on trust – and he’s built an app for that.
The CEO of RewardStream Solutions Inc. (TSX.V: REW), Goehring and his team are at the cutting edge of the new “trust economy.” RewardStream is a leader in online and mobile referral marketing, specializing in delivering referral marketing programs that help brands to acquire, engage and retain their most valuable stakeholders — customers.
By utilizing an innovative blend of marketing insight and proprietary software, RewardStream turns an existing customer base into a powerful new sales channel for all types of clients, delivering them an effective and low cost customer acquisition channel.
Goehring says referrals have the power to slice through the “marketing noise” that inundates consumers every second of every day and amplify any business’s brand.
“We bring the brand message to a new consumer, but carried by someone they know, and that’s so powerful that it’s a brand amplifier,” says Goehring.
“The message from me to you cuts through all of the mental filters, so a platform like ours really stands out from the noise.”
Referral marketing is powerful. Research shows that people are four times more likely to make a purchase when recommended by a friend. But small and medium-sized businesses face challenges in setting up an effective referral marketing system. Goehring says it may look simple while you’re making your purchase, but for the merchant, there’s a lot going on in the shopping cart.
“The merchant has questions like what’s my discount level? How do I secure my coupon code so they don’t end up a deals website and people take advantage of it? How do I make sure the consumer isn’t just making fake account after fake account to daisy-chain my rewards?” he says.
“All these things can be very complicated for the delivery of their referral, making sure that the people are real, delivering the reward, making sure they’re not fraudulent: there’s actually a fair amount of complication behind the scenes and we make it seamless.”
RewardStream does this by automating the process of referring friends to trusted products. Businesses incorporate the platform to allow their client base to send branded advocate messages to their friends through their preferred communication channel — be it social media, messaging app, email or text message.
Once the discount or bonus per referral is set and the system is up and running, RewardStream tracks all the data, from who provided the referral, clicked on the link, came back to the site, used the coupon code and how much they bought. The package includes anti-spam and fraud detection.
Goehring says this kind of technology is becoming essential to business as the transition from brick and mortar to online commerce continues. Increasingly, consumers are skipping the trip to the box store in favour of online and mobile purchases.
“In 2017 there are over 1,500 retail stores slated to close as more businesses shift to e-commerce as a source of growth,” he says.
“More and more purchases are being made on mobile — not even on the web. Other stats have come out recently to show that people are making purchases at higher rates than ever on busy train rides to and from work. So the transition is incredible.”
That transition is based on trust. Goehring says the success of innovations like Uber and Airbnb are predicated on a new “trust economy.” The technology has overcome consumers’ reticence when it comes to something as fundamental as letting a stranger into their home. And a lot of that is based on the personal touch of referral marketing.
“We’ve overcome a lot of these things through the appropriate use of technology,” he says.
“This age-old practice of referral has been around since the dawn of time — everyone has made a referral and benefitted from a referral, but until recently it has not been online and delivered in a mobile experience at scale, because it’s actually quite a bit more complicated than anyone anticipates.”
Goehring and the RewardStream team have synthesised all their experience and outside-the-box-store thinking into an app that installs seamlessly into e-commerce platforms, giving online merchants the ability to launch referral marketing capabilities within minutes right in their own e-commerce store with their own branding and without any technical work.
And the app has just launched onto Shopify, which represents a massive expansion opportunity for RewardStream. Shopify has the most robust app ecosystem of all of the e-commerce platforms and serves 400,000 merchants.
“Shopify is a good Canadian success story — they are just crushing it out there,” says Goehring.
“The huge benefit of Shopify is their sheer growth. They now serve 400,000 merchants around the world, they are growing faster than any other e-commerce merchant out there, they’ve gone from having no enterprise footprint — no large stores using their system two years ago — to being the number two enterprise platform in the world. So they are on fire.”
Delivery through these platforms provides RewardStream with access to millions of merchants and low-cost customer acquisition through app discovery on the platform app stores. This has Goehring and his team poised for major growth — a phase they’ve been focused on for the past two years.
“What we’ve done in the last two years is bring in a team of management and senior executives that have the high-growth software as a service background, that have been there and done it and grown companies, and we’ve basically been pivoting the company into this growth phase,” Goehring says.
“That’s what’s exciting about right now. Literally, with the Shopify launch, we’re opening up markets that we’ve never had access to before.”
The RewardStream management team has experience at firms like TIO Networks, Vision Critical, PayByPhone, OpenText and other leading tech companies. The company is also working with a proven business model with enterprise clients, including existing brand name clients like TELUS, Sprint, Rogers, Envision Financial and more for telecom and financial services.
“We started in enterprise and custom software doing these big, huge custom programs for Telus, Kudo, Rogers and other big, big companies,” says Goehring.
“What we’ve done now is spent the time to bring our capabilities down to any sized business, and now we’re getting distribution through the Shopify platforms of the world. For us, it’s been a very powerful transformation to where we’re now just opening the doors to potentially millions of small and medium businesses that are online already.”
For the Vancouver born and raised Goehring, it’s been an exciting ride. He says the company’s long-term vision includes harnessing the power of the immense data collected that covers user data, transaction data and social data to help consumers make better use of recommendations and ultimately make better purchase decisions.
“It’s great — we’ve just completed a business transformation, we have a new executive team with all the right backgrounds, a technology platform that’s already proven and working with large enterprise clients, branding clients, and now we’ve got the opening up of huge markets in the small and medium businesses side through these integrations,” Goehring says.
“We’re not here to do small things. We’d like to grow and grow big.”