For the past year, Thirdshelf has been quietly working on its loyalty marketing platform for independent retailers. But after raising $800,000 in seed funding and partnering with one of Canada’s leading retail tech startups, the company has decided to take the wraps off and demonstrate how they’ve managed to attract hundreds of retailers to their platform after launching just a few months ago.
“We were actually visible back in 2014 when we launched with an iBeacon-powered solution. We did a pivot during 2014 to better address the market needs and the reality of our retail customers, went stealth for about 18 months, built partnerships, signed up customers, raised our round, and this is really our first announcement since then,” said CTO and co-founder Antoine Azar.
Thirdshelf’s investors include Otimo Ventures, iNovia Capital, Interaction Ventures, Karim Salabi, former EVP of Rona and co-founder of Ascends Commerce, and Marc Petit and Dominic Becotte, partners at XPND Capital. The company plans to use the funding to add thousands of retailers on its platform, continue developing its machine learning technology, and pursue further partnerships with retailers, according to a blog post.
“Bots can be an incredible marketing tool, and we’re just scratching the surface.”
Thirdshelf’s white-label platform targets independent retailers, allowing them to create branded loyalty programs that include spend and action-based rewards, percent or cash back, and punch cards. At the same time, retailers can use the PoS and ecommerce data gleaned from customers to figure out how to act on these insights.
“We are the only ‘dedicated; loyalty marketing solution for independent retailers, all the other options are ‘coalition programs’, like Belly and FiveStars,” said Rami Karam, CEO of Thirdshelf. “With Thirdshelf, the retailer retains a direct relationship with their customers. The shopper is signing up to the retailer’s branded loyalty program. The retailer is never presented alongside their competitors, and the retailer retains ownership of their customer list and data, whereas with a coalition program you are giving up ownership rights to the “coalition” and often the “coalition” is allowed to send 3rd party offers to your customers.”
The platform is currently tightly integrated with ecommerce solutions like Lightspeed, Vend, and Springboard Retail. “In order to make the customer experience at checkout completely seamless for the shopper and in order to make the checkout process as simple as possible for staff, this means Thirdshelf is easy to deploy and keeps the checkout process quick,” said Karam. “Because Thirdshelf is integrated to POS we are able to track the actual conversion to sales for the loyalty program and marketing offers and we can also calculate the related profitability. The result is that we make it easy for our retailers to understand if Thirdshelf is “working”, and which offers and incentives so they can do more of the good stuff.”
One more way that Thirdshelf should prove ahead of the curve is by leveraging marketing bots, which are currently being considered “the next app”; companies are already looking to perfect their bot technology, as Shopify recently acquired San Francisco-based virtual marketing assistant Kit and Payso decided to shut down its P2P offering to focus white labelling its app for banks and credit unions and using bots and AI for its conversational interface.
Thirdshelf’s marketing bot analyzes in-store and only activity in order to determine when to engage customers at the right time, and with personalized messaging. However, Azar makes the distinction that they are not building a “chat bot” — which he says are still ‘automated interactions’ with no knowledge of the user’s preferences — and are focused on building a “relational bot”.
“Bots can be an incredible marketing tool, and we’re just scratching the surface,” Azar said. “Instead of automating interactions, we’re automating relations. Our bot learns from every customer transaction and interaction. It understands which products you like, what kind of customer you are, which offers you prefer, and which you don’t care much about. And it can do it perfectly across thousands of customers, in real-time. We think this is the true power of bot technology, and we’re incredibly excited about the future developments we have on our roadmap.”