After watching family members work hard to make it in the restaurant industry, and doing whatever he could to help them market, Dyson Barnett had an epiphany. He realized very few retail and restaurant proprietors are good at marketing. This aha moment gave Barnett a compelling idea. "I decided to design an app," he said. In 2011, he founded Los Angeles-based FanCONNECT, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application created specifically for retailers, restaurateurs and other consumer-dependent small businesses.
According to Barnett, who serves as the company's CEO, the platform offers mobile loyalty and marketing services to help entrepreneurs stay connected with clientele and offer them incentives to return again. "The application combines mobile, Wi-Fi, email, stored-value, rewards and white-glove services," Barnett said. "Our services can also be de-bundled, so you only pay for what you use."
FanCONNECT now has a portfolio of 1,100 restaurant and retail merchants. "We've grown to more than 13 million opted-in consumers, over 275 million messages sent, and 1.5 billion in coupons, rewards and promotions," Barnett said.
Barnett noted that the FanCONNECT platform offers multiple ways to "influence new buyers," including mobile kiosk, loyalty and Wi-Fi marketing, as well as guest-engagement tools. Barnett said FanCONNECT's technology, which gives businesses easy ways to collect customer information, is what distinguishes the company from others. "For example, we've solved the problem of building a customer list with a Facebook widget and Wi-Fi access-point marketing," he pointed out.
FanCONNECT's software also enables proprietors to use proactive automated marketing to conduct surveys, communicate benefits and showcase offers or incentives. "The platform uses workflow marketing, based on visits, to influence buying behavior," Barnett said. "It also has mobile marketing apps and digital coupons to incentivize, create buying behavior and generate referrals.
With FanCONNECT, an establishment can construct its own marketing assets and programs using the drag-and-drop interface or using what Barnett calls "done-for-you" assets to take advantage of 60 automated events inside the platform. "We've made it easy for a subscriber to send out messages and influence new buyers quickly," Barnett said. The application also comes with light-duty customer resource management capabilities, associating customers with mobile numbers and email addresses. These are viewable through a user-friendly dashboard that enables the merchant to see "an overall view of the customer base" and drill into metrics on a customer's buying frequency, spend, latest purchase date and noteworthy occasions, Barnett added.
Barnett indicated that selling FanCONNECT is easy for ISOs and merchant level salespeople: special offers include "a free marketing service for their brick-and-mortar business, and trials of the marketing suite of services." The platform is also available as a private-label solution. In addition, FanCONNECT was designed to allow the customer to try it before buying it, which gives the salesperson an attractive offering. "We believe you can get more attention, or mindshare, if you introduce something of value to the merchant," he said.
And, that's not all. "Believe it or not, we also pay the ISO if the customer converts," Barnett said. "You earn 15 to 25 percent in residuals, and some people are sending us well over 50 to 100 leads a month." He also indicated being processor-agnostic and giving a merchant the "opportunity to get mobile loyalty really fast," have proven to be big sales-side advantages.
Barnett stated the company's growth focus is on strategic partnerships and connecting with sales professionals through LinkedIn. FanCONNEcT also researches industry trends and collects customer data to help determine its product road map. "We're getting very excited about our next generation of software," Barnett said. "The holy grail to a restaurant is the customer, and they'll be able to give consumers the option to buy prepaid memberships and offers." In total, Barnett said, FanCONNECT is still scaling, but the company is "very happy" with the latest growth and its clientele.
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Chief Executive Officer