Mister Beacon Episode #7
Rover CEO InterviewJuly 04, 2016
John Coombs explains what's required to build an Orchestration layer for a beacon solution and why you need one. He shines a light on his company's customers and why some of them came to Rover as a "second surgeon”, asking Rover to fix the problems from their first attempt at beacon deployment.
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You're listening to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem with Steve Statler.
John Coombs 00:34
Quite clearly, beacons are the solution for accurate detection of location. It's just the case. And we are and beyond that we are going to provide the infrastructure to facilitate this becoming a reality for app publishers of the smallest to the largest type. I think Google's trying to shift the paradigm and provide the cloud infrastructure in order to facilitate this, along with some some individuals from third parties who have started to do this, which is one beacon many apps as a theme as a paradigm shift in what beacons the beacon ecosystem, how that is evolving. The oversimplification was okay, there's some beacon hardware companies out there, buy those beacons, tell them agency, we're going to use beacons. And there we go, we've got we've got some customer experience magic.
Steve Statler 01:31
Welcome to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem. My name is Steve Statler, for Statker Consulting. We're doing this in partnership with Proxbook. And this week we are communicating with Toronto. So I'm in San Diego and John Coombs, the CEO of Rover is joining me from Toronto. Welcome to the show.
John Coombs 01:52
Thank you, Steve. Good to be here.
Steve Statler 01:54
Toronto is quite the hotbed of companies in the beacosystem. I was just checking out proximate before the interview. And I saw like there's over a dozen companies and you've got a CIF with the LBMA. And Rob Thompson with Doc three and yourselves and I'll labs and so forth. So what is it about Toronto that is causing all this innovation in the converged space?
John Coombs 02:16
There's many factors, there's two that sort of stand out to me, I think one, just in general, as a sort of startup tech hub, Toronto seems to be growing rather quickly. And you're seeing a lot of companies emerge in this ecosystem. And Toronto is kind of coming into its own as a center for startups in North America. I think also technology in terms of Beacon companies, location companies, there's some pretty good universities, nearby engineering schools, specifically. So you've got Waterloo in the University of Toronto, where you get a really good talent, lots of good engineering talent. And for those that don't move to Mountain View or the area, they I think they tend to stay here and build technology businesses here in Toronto, so that that talent probably done a lot to kind of help that.
Steve Statler 03:00
It's great to see a lot of the benefits of America, but you can get a decent cup of tea as well. A lot of Saturday Night Live comedian that seems to come from that area, too. So yeah, got lots going for you.
John Coombs 03:11
Yeah, just make sure you come in the summer.
Steve Statler 03:14
Okay, tell us a bit about Rover, what do you do?
John Coombs 03:17
Rover's a location first mobile engagement platform, it's really means we're looking at mobile engagement and mobile messaging with a location first lens up and down the stack everything from how we communicate to the events that might trigger a message for a user to the ways in which we capture interpret data. And we seek to be that sort of central platform for publishers to manage and create location based experiences, everything from managing your beacon or location, geofence infrastructure, all the way through to creating location based content and segmentation and analytics to support that strategy. And consistent with the language of the book and my chapter, specifically, it's really an orchestration layer. So when you look at the Beco system, or the or the stack that exists around location, you know, many component parts, hardware and analytics and content, etc. And so we really seek to be that sort of central or orchestration piece that helps the marketer or helps an app publisher centralizer, or have one sort of view into what they can do with location and mobile engagement.
Steve Statler 04:25
So we should do the full disclosure bit. And so I am on your advisory board, and you did contribute a chapter to our book that's coming out, hopefully in just a few days, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the ecosystem. And as we say your chapter was about orchestration, which is a term that we made up I think some other people are starting to use it, which is very gratifying. But you know, what, one what is orchestration and why do you need it?
John Coombs 04:53
Yeah, I think you're being humbled by saying we I think I said it in 20 words, and you reduce it to the one so of hats off to you for coining that phrase, because I think it's a good one. Certainly, around other technologies, there exists a multiple component parts and multiple aspects of an ecosystem that emerge around a technology. But I think when we look at beacons and location, there's a lot of potential nuggets of value for customers. And depending on the way in which they look at beacons, for some, it's very much about advertising and capturing data. And for others, it might be purely around visit analytics. And for others, it might be very much centered around a content game or an opportunity to brand A or monetize their app through branded experiences. And so when you look at the many components of how one might execute on a beacon deployment, and in turn campaign, you've got a lot of a lot going on, right. And so I think when we look at or when we talk about the orchestration layer, it's providing visibility to all these component parts, and have them speak to each other in a manner that the left arm knows what the right arm is doing. And so that you have this sort of cohesive strategy when you when you look to do a beacon deployment. And the reality is, we see this with many of our customers is is you will have a BI analytics person looking at the data and you'll have a creative or a designer working in the in our case, the Rover platform to create content. And then somebody more on the operational side will be looking at importing UU IDs and setting up lat longs for geo fences. And so those are different roles and different personas. And I think it's important that there's that visibility across the board without centralized into what you you so eloquently coined as an orchestration layer.
Steve Statler 06:39
Well, our family went up to La this last weekend, and we were watching the San Diego Youth Symphony Orchestra perform at the Disney Concert Hall. Yes, it was just an amazing experience. But they were like vast, just a massive group of musicians. And this conductor did an amazing job of pulling it all together. And I was just sort of thinking if you didn't have that conductor of the orchestra, this could be absolute chaos and to me orchestrations about taking what could be chaotic, and coordinating it. So there's actually purpose and a great experience that delights people rather than this kind of fragmented thing. And so that was kind of it just really brought that metaphor that we originally discussed really came home to me when this beautiful music came out of what could have been a cacophony. Absolutely. So if we were to kind of just really dumb it down. And if you're, you've got your shopping list for an orchestration layer, you've decided beacons aren't enough. And yeah, I want an app. But there's something in the middle. What is it that's going to be on my shopping list? If I'm shopping for a product that's in your category?
John Coombs 07:48
It really starts from how am I looking at if we're looking specifically at beacons? How am I looking at hardware? What vendor or vendors am I working with? So am I am I looking to be exclusive with one beacon provider, I might potentially looking to tap into beacon networks or have different hardware as part of the network that I'm going to leverage. If that is the case, I need to make sure that vendor that I choose to go with is able to speak to these different platforms or access these different networks. So you have this sort of foundational infrastructure piece right around managing your locations, or managing beacons and being able to make sense of that. And access that in a manner that is actionable. Further up the chain, you can start to look at content is the type of content I'm looking to deliver almost static or fixed in nature, or am I looking to be very iterative, and maybe change my beacon based experiences on a week over week or month over month basis? So is the partner or the vendor, I choose to sort of help me orchestrate one who is taking a more custom or bespoke, maybe agency approach to building a solution? Or am I looking for more of that sort of platform that allows me to, to iterate and obviously, that's another one. I think another one is really looking at analytics and data. I think, as you you know, and certainly you've had on the on the video, podcast here, there's a lot of different data sets and different ways in which we can interpret location data. And so making sure that that I think that vendor or partner has I guess the experience and the visibility in their product to understand how do we interpret location data? How do we action on it in a manner that's value add for customers and there's a lot there so I think looking at at that side as well. Another one I would call out is is key is integrations right so looking at, we very much recognize and despite drinking the Kool Aid of being deeply immersed in the beacon space, obviously beacon and proximity based engagement on mobile is one spoke or piece of a greater marketing wheel so to speak. You need to make sure that that that vendor or partner is looking to you that as a spoken a greater wheel. So what sort of integrations are set up such that I can feed this new hose of location data to my existing CRM, or perhaps integrate with my existing, you know, CMS as it relates to content? And the like? How are how are integrations structured and built in in a vendor, those are some ones that sort of come to mind that we kind of went through in the chapter, I believe.
Steve Statler 10:22
Let's talk about some of the boundaries of that. So it's a hub, it's an abstraction layer from the beacons sounds like there's elements of content management, campaign management, kind of just making sure that you're not getting lots and lots of random signals from beacons, that you're kind of filtering and selecting what you're going to act on some personalization. So there's a lot of components. How do you as the CEO of a company in this space with the endless feature list? How do you decide what it is you're going to do? And what is the you're not going to do? And you're gonna look to other companies? So if I think about analytics, for instance, you have analytics in your product, but there's some huge gulyas Yeah, this marketplace that are doing analytics? Where do you start? Where do you stop on something like that?
John Coombs 11:09
I'll start with twos broader product development, things that we draw inspiration from first is being diligent as a certainly as a startup, or building a product, that the features that you built are something that customers are willing to pay for, and aren't just sort of frivolous, sort of on the fringe type. Use cases, so that really focusing on doing things that matter and will be used, and looking at the data to say these are the features, these are the things in the product that customers are using, these are the things we thought were cool, are just that they're academic, or that they're cool, they're not being used, perhaps I think that's, you know, one aspect. And I think, going to the question of what you're going to do, and how you make those decisions, you really have to look at the DNA of your team, what's the strength, and we know that what our strength is and and what our team really excels at. And we are not an ad tech company, that is not our background, nor is it our core competency. And so we're not trying to build a player in the ad tech space, there are certainly ways in which we can interface with those who are, but we have a skill set that we make sure is reflected in our product. And so we can stay focused there. And focus really means knowing what you know, and knowing what you don't know and focusing on that. So we aren't as you know, we're hardware agnostic, we aren't a beacon hardware company, we're not trying to do at all from sort of start to finish, we feel that the the ecosystem, the ecosystem poses a significant number of challenges that a number of vendors are required to solve for what's going on in the stack. And to think that you can certainly at this point, do it all is almost sort of diluting your value in that you kind of have to focus to some degree here. You raised a good point on that. On the analytic side. I think location analytics, as I alluded to earlier, presents a whole new source of challenges. And it's quite a sizable problem. So are the analytics we provide is not to say, this is where analytics starts and stops. It's these are the things that we know that you need to see. And specifically, because we're really centered around location based experiences and great content that drives user engagement. We want to make sure that the analytics supports that. Whereas you might think a proximity analytics being very focused around dwell time and attribution. And from this beacon to this beacon, and then customer purchase this, ours is more focused on what experiences did I create using Rover what content did I deliver using Rover and what was engaging? What's the click throughs? What's the view rates, what was sticky as it related to the user experiences I created? That's kind of where we tend to focus. And the point being to go beyond that, because it's very important to do. We offer integrations and make sure that we've structured the product in a manner where you can export that data, very easily import it to a BI solution or analytics tool that you're using. Because our approach to being end to end with customers is not to be end to end through doing it all. But to be end to end through the right integrations and the right partnerships with those who are focused on the piece of the BKD ecosystem that is their skill set or their their focus.
Steve Statler 14:15
Can you give us some quick examples of what those integrations are that you've done?
John Coombs 14:19
On the proximity analytic side data. Snap is a company that we've done some things with, they are focused on proximity analytics. And so that's their focus. That's an example of that can look at Google Analytics is another thing, right? exporting data to there being able to import any location data into an existing analytics tool in a raw format. I mean, that stuff's important on the integration side, the hardware company. So we offer integrations with gimbal, with Estimote, with context, so if you enter your API key for the hardware provider you're working with, you're gonna pull in all your infrastructure, all that's in your cloud, so your gimbal places or your Estimote beacons into the Rover cloud, full visibility to them everything they expose that their API You can now see. And the important point there is they do a great job those companies have building great hardware and that some of the pieces that are required to manage and secure that infrastructure, we're not trying to do that. We're just saying, let's connect with those. Let's integrate with those to give you visibility to them.
Steve Statler 15:16
Got it. I love the fact that you're integrating with Google Analytics, a tool that synonymous with web analytics. And now we're taking web web analytics, and we're applying it to the real world foot stream as opposed to quick stream. Can I challenge you to open the kimono a little bit? If that's not inappropriate? Yeah. Can you give us an example of something a feature that you had that you were convinced we were going to love? And was really going to be fantastic? And then you know, what, what are some of the new features that you've put in that maybe you didn't initially think people were, you weren't aware that people were going to really value.
John Coombs 15:52
It's more of a broad response. And it's, you know, but it's definitely the case. And that is as technologist and excited nerds, if you will, in this space, we, we can very get very caught up and excited about potential use cases and features. And I think the reality is, as is the case with most products, and certainly, as is the case with products in a very new space, there's the whole just keep it simple. You can very much overcomplicate these things. And so they early on in the first version of the platform, you could add a whole host of different media types and barcodes and creating your content and just a lot of different options as it relates to the type of content you would deliver. And I think 90% of the use cases are far more simple than that people aren't looking to do these elaborate this type of content widget on top of this with a call to action. It's just I think it's reflective of impart a new market, and just that you don't need to overcomplicate things, wait until everyone's banging on the door before I add that feature. And keep it simple, because I think one of the things that I we've talked about over the last few years of being in this space you and I've talked about this a lot is you have to get something out there. I remember back in the day as a kid fishing with my dad is like you're not going to catch anything if your line is not in the water. And you can overcomplicate get in market, get, try use cases, start to see what's working, keep it simple, and iterate on that. And so keeping things simple is certainly something that's important to look at.
Steve Statler 17:22
And what about the future? I know you've got a new release coming out. And then if you don't want to talk about it, that's fine. Any any hints you want to give in terms of where you're taking the product?
John Coombs 17:30
Yeah, I'm very excited about the the new product which is launching in the next week or so mostly, it's the product of two and a half years of of learning and being in the trenches with this stuff. And all the pitfalls and all the things that we've talked about and addressing those, what we tried to do really with the new product was to really simplify the user experience and take the complexity out of working with beacons, it can very quickly become a bit finicky and more complex than it needed. So we really sought to address usability from our customer side. And I can explain a little bit how we did that, but also looking to scale as well. So as we move increasingly into larger deployments, there are logistical challenges associated with 5000 locations and perhaps hundreds of 1000s of beacons. So how do we look at scale, while keep keeping that usability angle as well, what we did and it helps to look at visuals to articulate this. But we really broke out the aspects of the of the ecosystem, the component parts of the orchestration layer into standalone web apps, essentially. So when you log into the Rover dashboard, you have a dedicated web application that serves a component of the of the orchestration layer. So just I'll touch on to one of these apps in the Rover dashboard is called the proximity app. And what it serves to do is provide a central contain location for me from for our customers to manage and have visibility to all their their location infrastructure to their geo fences to their beacons. Again, if they're using multiple beacons, hardware providers, they can pull in those beacons there through the integration and start to assign tags to where beacons are. So if I have beacons that are set at the entrance of my store, I'm going to tag them entrance so that later on when I go to action on them as a marketer, it's not you UID this or beacon number 123. It's send a message this message to all beacons tagged entrance, located using geo fences in the West Coast, again, assigning language of the marketer to this infrastructure layer. So that's the proximity app focused on managing locations and beacons at scale. There are some others one being the Messages app which is dedicated to creating the content right, going through the rules and logic of what message choice and at what time and to what audience focusing contained, web based environment to focus on that so the usability was really enjoyed As by simplifying by breaking out functions into these these standalone apps.
Steve Statler 20:05
So I think you're at Google I O. So we'll talk about that a little bit later. But you mentioned a couple of things that kind of intrigued me. One was this tagging concept, attaching metadata to beacons. The other one was the management dashboard. And both of those things it looks like Google are starting to do in that Eddystone platform. And what's what's your view of that? And is there do you see the overlap? And are you seeing what do you see people's willingness and desire is to use the Google tools versus tools from companies such as your own.
John Coombs 20:43
So many places to go with this? In short, we're very excited with what Google's doing. I think they address a lot of challenges that have existed in the in the beacon ecosystem for the last two years, as we've looked to see scale, etc. Some of the hurdles have been addressed there. And it's certainly warrant some discussion. I think, if I was to separate where Google might start or stop and where Rover exists, among many things, Google has provided cloud infrastructure. And I would say more developer centric tools to leverage and take what you can do with beacons farther to tap into beacon networks and a number of the things which we can speak to the Rover customer as a marketer. And so when we look at tagging, and these sorts of concepts, it's really about tagging that infrastructure, which is will and should exist in the Google Cloud, but tagging it with marketer language so that I can tie content to it that way. It's more about determining segmentation rules and marketers speak and less about the infrastructure piece. And so we can dig into that and in a bit more, more deeper way. But we've been working closely with Google on this over the last few months. And I'm very excited about the direction they've gone here. I think we talked about this before we jumped on the call that there have been some challenges that are very much close to being met or being met with some of the announcements.
Steve Statler 22:01
But do you expect people to use the Eddystone dashboard or your dashboard?
John Coombs 22:07
I think that there will always be cases. I mean, there's just as as you know, you alluded to multiple vendors, and different vendors being focused on different things. There's also different so many different use cases for what can happen with beacons, the vendor, the the mom and pop shop, SMB pizza store who wants to do a physical web or Eddystone beacon with a discoverable URL that takes them to their menu is not the same as a large retailer who's dealing with 1000 locations, and is looking to do far more robust user experiences is not the same as an NBA team, or an NHL hockey team who's looking to deliver an in stadium experience, I view it as quite confidently that there's a whole host of different use cases and requirements here, different audiences, and different customer types. And that's a good thing, right? The fact that an SMB, a pizza owner, and the largest retailers in the world, can all engage with beacons now and do so in a in a manner that's accessible, whether it be through Rover or through Google or through a mix. That's what's exciting when we look at the space and the prospects going forward.
Steve Statler 23:12
Are you I'm not Google bashing here, because I love what they're doing. And it's very, but I think there is an issue with people's trust of Google and giving their metadata to Google. And it's like, almost you have to do that. If you're going to certainly you're going to use Eddystone, UID and UID, their equivalent of iBeacon and secure iBeacon. Which of course Apple have failed to deliver. We're looking at the developer conference. Absolutely nothing. Yeah. So but But going back to Google, do people trust Google with sensitive metadata about their business.
John Coombs 23:49
But there's many different ways to engage with Google as it relates to beacons. But I think when we look at the the proximity API, and what they're doing there, the only data that Google is really requiring you to provide is the lat long of a beacon, the associated Google Place ID, which is their database of places, the floor level to solve for mall scenarios, and the stability of that beacon. So is it a static or a moving beacon? And I think that level of data is fair. I mean, you're indexing the physical world. These are fair things to capture. I, as a publisher, or retailer or brand can choose to add metadata or attachments to these beacons. And that's where yes, you get into some sensitivity. I think this is where going back to your previous question, explain where Rover fits in. So Rover actually serves as a layer to interface with that and we would essentially the only attachment we would provide is a Rover unique identifier that's meaningful to Rover only. But it connects that beacon infrastructure to the your private Rover based content or data, meaning the meta data, the segmentation, the rules, the sort of more proprietary information is housed in your account and you're in your Rover dashboard. And the attachment or meta that we assigned to the proximity API is really just a unique identifier for Rover to associate that beacon with what is held privately by our customers.
Steve Statler 25:12
So you get to control the most detail parts of the message data within your platform, which they control entirely. But they, the reality is, they're gonna have to share some stuff with Google because they want Google Maps to work well, with their beacons, they want a good experience from the operating system. So it's, yeah, there's a lot of different ways to go. But if you use the right tools, then you can balance out this this delicate balance between sharing your data with this massive advertising company that also owns the operating system and most phones and controlling your data and, and knowing who's seeing what and not giving away value that you're not necessarily being paid for.
John Coombs 25:54
Correct? Yeah, to just sort of switch gears to the positive spin ball. So you know what I think I'll simplify and then perhaps get into some depth. I think first and foremost, what's exciting for all of us is that I think, when I looked at kind of tallied up the sessions, it seems as though over 20% of the content, almost a quarter of the content was centered around beacons and location and context. And so it says a lot about how you've got the two most dominant platforms. Yes, we're waiting for more on from WWDC. But you've got two dominant platforms essentially saying this stuff matters. And yes, there is GPS and other macro location technology. But quite clearly, quite clearly, beacons are the solution for accurate detection of location. It's just the case. And beyond that, we are going to provide the infrastructure to facilitate this becoming a reality for app publishers of the smallest to the largest type. So I think that's high level thematically quite an inspiring and exciting. I think a number of issues have been addressed. I'll highlight them sort of bullet them out, one of the sort of three or four problems we hear all the time I'm sure you hear in this space, are I need to have an app? Do I have to have an app? Is there a way around that my users need to have Bluetooth on? How many of them have that, and then do I need to have a beacon in every store is there beacons out there already, this notion of one beacon, one app, big barrier, and then efficient scanning for Bluetooth signals, especially on Android, this has been a very inefficient challenge as it relates to battery drain, so that we look at those sort of four things. And arguably three out of those four words very seriously addressed at IO, which is exciting. And so I guess I'd start with the nearby API. And what that means for battery efficient Bluetooth scanning where like Apple, you now are going to have operating system level support for for scanning and detection of Bluetooth, which is maybe a bit bit of time coming but is exciting and powerful. The second one that I would address and this is this is a big one is what has traditionally aside for some proprietary protocols, and some companies doing some really great things on this front building beacon networks, the challenge has been this dominant understanding of one beacon, one app, I have an app, and therefore I need a beacon to speak to it. I think Google's trying to shift the paradigm and provide the cloud infrastructure in order to facilitate this, along with some some individuals and third parties who have started to do this, which is one beacon many apps as a theme as a paradigm shift in what beacons and the beacon ecosystem, how that is evolving, providing the cloud infrastructure. So I as a developer, can say, I have this beacon. And I have the control to say this is either a private, my app only beacon, it is a private beacon that I will provide access to this designated party, or it's a public beacon for all to consume. And I think, for all that down, you know, for all the criticism of Google in the data side, it's it's a move that only really the likes of a company the size of Google can really make in a meaningful way. And the takeaway from that is that this infrastructure, this solution to provide beacon networks or to accelerate beacon networks, now I as an individual, can go out and do a beacon installation, and monetize that installation in a manner that's a lot easier than it had been in the past. So that's, that's another big one, the Eddystone URL and physical web stuff. We obviously have seen a lot of this prior to this year's IO. But one thing that I think takes that farther is nearby notifications, and how that will play out as it relates to being able to send the app list notification. There's content here, get my app, I think that's exciting as well. And really, those are some significant barriers that are either being solved for as we speak or are solved for already. So it's, I think, you know, macro, it's Really great for the ecosystem? And we're certainly excited about it.
Steve Statler 30:02
Yeah. I mean, I think if there was any question about whether the beacon proximity market was going to succeed and breakthrough, then Google I O answered that this whole business about being able to discover apps through through beacons is really exciting for venues like airports that have millions of passengers, but they struggle to get people's awareness that there's an app that could really help them get through faster and have a better experience. Now they can have a beacon there. And as long as the airport is registered their app with the beacons presence, then suddenly people are aware that these great tools are there. And also, they're making it easier to not have absence all the work that Scott Jensen's been doing is, is phenomenal.
John Coombs 30:46
Yeah, I would just add to that, I think this is, you know, you hear the app versus is the app dead and all that, I think it's worth raising this point, which is there are things you can do in a native app from a user experience that are far superior to anything that you'd see happening in near term in web. And so I think the case can be made, and it's another conversation altogether, but the value of native apps and what they can do, and I think, you know, the big knock on them is, oh, I have a million apps, I gotta flip through them. And it's very difficult. And I got all these apps on my phone. I think as we see more efficiency and battery. And as we see apps being contextually smarter, and essentially coming to the surface when relevant and beautifully disappearing, when not based on things like beacons, that whole barrier to having too many apps on my phone is very much alleviated. Yeah.
Steve Statler 31:36
And just to be clear, my attitude towards Google is not I don't begrudge them the tools to monetize these beacons, although they seem to treat that as almost like an embarrassment. If I'm a retailer, and I'm looking at investing in hundreds of 1000s of beacons. And I say, Well, should I be doing this? This is a career decision, it's going to be really embarrassing if I've got 300,000 beacons out there, and no one uses them. And there's no value. I never look over at Google and say, Wow, here's one of the biggest companies in the world in terms of web advertising. And they clearly have an agenda that makes them fair and square, fully committed to making this technology work. Well, I'm reassured that they have an opportunity to make a lot of money, because I think they can help the rest of us do really well out of it as well. So it's a really good thing for the ecosystem. Yes, yeah. Well, maybe, oh, the one last Google thing. And then we'll move on to actually what the user experiences that you're saying and the apps out there and what your customers are doing. So what about physical web? So it seems like your Rover does really well, helping people write apps is, you know, what, if people don't want to write apps, and they're just using the Physical Web, Is that Is that a threat or not?
John Coombs 32:51
I think like I sort of alluded to maybe earlier on was that there are so many use cases, many different spaces or you know, rooms for different vendors and different buyers in this space. And, again, the pizza shop owner or the bus stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming transit, and large right retailer, you know, these are such diverse and different use cases. And there is very compelling opportunity for Physical Web to solve for what beacons can be done, where beacons can be leveraged. And then there are use cases that are counter to that. So I think there's there's there's so much room for for this stuff. And I feel extremely excited and positive of what the Physical Web means for beacons and having more of them out there.
Steve Statler 33:37
Yeah, to me, they are complementary. And actually, yeah, more people will be using apps that leverage beacons if they can have a web experience that is like the runway to, to using those things. So let's let's flip over and see, you know, what are your customers doing? Who who's doing Watson? Let's get some specifics in terms of examples.
John Coombs 33:59
Okay, as you know, we work in the loyalty retail loyalty industry, we work in direct to retail, we do some stuff in payments, we do some stuff in, in, in sports as well. One of the underlying themes that I would say, seems to come out of me quite passionately, in all of these use cases is that we need to it's sort of incumbent upon us in this space in the in the beacon creations we craft, that we really try and put that sort of user experience lens on first that we look at how can we craft an end user experience that is more informed, faster, better, because of beacons and because of our knowledge of location, there's plenty of room to really get into the advertising and pure play marketing side of the content. But what I would sort of challenge all those in the space to do is to really look at driving and user value first and the comparison you know, we often draw and look at as a business. It's kind of part of our DNA is the web wasn't built with banner ads. It was built With great content upon which banner ads were laid, and I think when we look at content strategy as it relates to beacons in proximity, it's, let's build that audience, let's get those opt ins, let's demonstrate end user value, because then it becomes far easier to start to layer in some of the marketing messaging and advertising messaging that will really move the needle. But our ability to monetize and drive advertising revenue is essentially limited to the size of that audience. So let's grow the audience. And I think the dollars will fall for fall fall quite quickly and perhaps a little idealistic, but bringing it to your to your customer, your question, the largest, the biggest success we see is with customers who are really looking at user experience first, and so I'll just touch on one of them, which is well, two of them, perhaps which is in sports, we work with NHL and NBA teams, specifically, I'll have to give a hats off to the Pittsburgh Penguins who won the Stanley Cup. I know you're close to San Jose, I'm not sure how much of a hockey fan you are, but they took it to them, I guess this this round. And so the Pittsburgh Penguins, as a as a hockey club are really looking at beacons and proximity it through the lens of the fan experience, and how can we reward and delight and surprise the fan when they entered the game, giving them a downloadable wallpaper of their of their favorite player, giving them a meet and greet of a player when maybe a geofence the away teams arena and the fan has traveled to see a game on the road. And we know that so we provide a fan experience beyond that, or what looking at some of the loyalty integrations we do at the penguins where they're rewarding fans who are downtown, watching the game, at participating bars, who are engaging in the fan experience downtown are around the console Energy Center, and being rewarded for that using the loyalty currency, the pens, points loyalty, currency that they employ. And so location is a very powerful way that they're really addressing the fan experience. And I think that approach, there's a lot that retailers and other brands can learn from that. And I think I'll just touch on the retail world. And so you know, working with Procter and Gamble and some other CPGs, some of the more exciting stuff is really not about the coupon, or the pure play sales, it's about that more informed customer experience. So with Procter and Gamble, we're doing in aisle information around product reviews, product details, and I think that's really smart. I mean, we've talked about this before about the comparison with Amazon, for example. And everyone likes to sort of say that, you know, Amazon is eating brick and mortar retail as a product of price point. But I think a lot of it has to do with customer experience, and how when I know that I go to Amazon, I'm presented with rich content and a lot of data that helps me make an informed confident customer purchase decision. Because I can see user reviews, I can see a video of a product inaction. And I'm able to sort of inform through content, my purchase. And you know, I think that approach when I look at some of the CPGs to informing product purchase, and that decision making tree is a really powerful way to be a UX first, as it relates to content strategy with beacons.
Steve Statler 38:11
My message around experience is one that we hear consistently. I am interested and I don't know how comfortable you feel going into this area. But I think with some of your stadium deployments, sports, then deployment, you want the first vendor that they worked with, they actually worked with someone else, and then they work with you and I don't want to rubbish. Sure who went yeah, for you. But what was the experience that they were moving? You know, what, what persuaded them that they actually wanted to change and go to like the second surgeon, you know, the first surgeon you ever need, and it's still giving you a chip. And so you actually then do your research, and find out who the best surgeon is that you can work with. And so I think you ended up being the second surgeon, but I'm kind of interested, I think people would generally want to know, Well, okay, so what can go wrong? And what were the things that you've been helping people to recover from?
John Coombs 39:02
I you know what I like that question. It's a great one because it ties into the concept of the orchestration layer and why what the complexity is, I think I'll step back a little bit and say, when beacons launched sort of two and a half years ago, what have you. Everybody's knowledge of beacons was the Adweek or marketing mag article about this Minority Report experience of the future in retail. And the the oversimplification was okay, there's some beacon hardware companies out there, buy those beacons, tell them agency, we're going to use beacons. And there we go. We've got we've got some customer experience magic, which is fair. I mean, that's sort of how things reviewed early on, I think, the market has matured and our understanding of it has matured over the last few years where more and more customers marketers are coming to understand that there are as we discussed earlier, a number of moving parts and other components, whether it be the analytics or the hardware or the security or the content strategy. In the messaging limits, the list goes on. There's a lot of things moving on. And so if you're not working, I think with a vendor who is location first, recognizing the nuances and complexities of this ecosystem, there will be things that are missed. And I think that's, that's kind of what happens is, initially a purchase is made of beacons. Maybe they're installed. That's great, we're good to go. Then there's okay agency, we got these beacons. So let's do this. But it starts to roll back the onion, peel back end and start to look and there's more challenges, more opportunities, but more complexities to the ecosystem. And I think where we sort of really came in and have been successful is often we aren't the first Surgeon at the table. Our customers have actually gone through experimentation or early proof of concepts, and are now recognizing that there is more to the ecosystem. And they do, they almost, although they're not necessarily saying these words, yet, they're looking for that orchestration layer that puts together the component parts.
Steve Statler 40:59
Very good. We should wrap up before we go. Something I've never asked you is how did you get into this space? I was gonna doing the 30 LinkedIn review, before interviewing political scientists don't you must be? Yeah. This must be incredible time for you looking at what's going on here in the States with our election? And so feel free to ignore that, or kinds of it? Yeah. How did you get into this space?
John Coombs 41:25
Well, just on the first point, I mean, it's interesting, I think, with our mayor, you may have heard of our illustrious mayor in Toronto, who was certainly on the radar in a similar light to what's going on south of the border. So that is often the topic of conversation, when when, when talking politics with friends, south of the border, looking at my path, it's a longer conversation to look at the academic background and sort of where I came from there. But I started my career and spent a lot of time in the loyalty industry itself. And loyalty is interesting, because it's sort of the intersection of data, customer experience influencing customer behavior, retail, and other other verticals, and sort of lived in this world, which was, you know, we were working with, with large retailers and brands, who were really trying to say, how, you know, how do I influence customer behavior? How do I drive brand loyalty? And in many cases, that has traditionally been a plastic card that you swipe, and you get points for, and they're, you know, sometimes there's discounts, or there's points, but incentives, you know, what tools do I have as a marketer to influence, purchase behavior, lift and shift and basket size, and also return and retain a customer. In that business, I had spent a lot of time increasingly looking at the technology angle, I mean, we all know, the stat of the percentage of time we spend on our mobile devices, and specifically in retail environments. And we were always looking at and I specifically was drawn to, you know, what role does mobile play in that customer journey? How can the tenants of a traditional industry in loyalty apply to the to the digital mobile world, and we had dabbled in, you know, QR codes and different technologies, which sought to get it this relevant customer experience piece. But I think, you know, looking through those, all those experiences ended up being kind of clunky, and just not the kind of frictionless user experience that as marketers, we all know, is so important. And so the path to the business was really one from that origin. Looking at the technology, seeing beacons launch and saying, wait a minute. We everyone else might not realize this, but we haven't been in this business realize that there is a lack of software solutions that allow the marketer to deliver on what I'm reading in this Adweek story. And so we said, let's not be a hardware company, let's not look at that aspect of the stack of the ecosystem. Well, that's really extend what we know about informing a better customer journey and driving brand loyalty to this technology, giving marketers a tool to sort of be in the driver's seat of crafting these type of location powered experiences and ultimately delivering better customer journeys. So I think that is that is the evolution and the origin, origin of the business and sort of how we look at the space.
Steve Statler 44:15
All right. Well, John, thanks so much. It's been really a fascinating conversation. And thank you all if you have been thanks for listening. Thanks for watching The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem.
John Coombs 44:26
Steve Statler 44:32
All right, John. So the question that we ask all the CEOs that come through this, this Hitchhiker's Guide to the ecosystem is what are the three albums that you would take to Mars if you are stuck there for a year?
John Coombs 44:48
Well, I guess I'll give three three completely different angles. One I feel given events of late having some David Bowie would, it would probably be a good idea given sort of intergalactic nature of a journey like that. I think also something Motown. Gotta keep things funky you're gonna have to dance on Mars, right? You don't want to just be playing with space dust all day. And hey, you know what albums are great, but sometimes I'm a big fan of podcasts. So I'm sure there's an Everything You Need to Know About Living on Mars podcast, and I would make sure that I'd have that.
Steve Statler 45:25
Very resourceful. Okay, those are the three Motown, Bowie, and your survival guide to Mars.