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Startup Spotlight

November 1, 2012

Startup Spotlight: SweetSpot
 

There’s no question about it. Mobile marketing only continues to grow, and marketers must start finding ways to incorporate mobile into business models. SweetSpot WiFi offers a new solution to mobile marketing with a browser-based platform that allows retailers and brands to engage consumers on-site. GBA spoke with SweetSpot founder Ryan Ross to find out more about this exciting new tool:
 
GBA: How did you come up with the idea for SweetSpot?
 
RR: SweetSpot was formed to address what I perceived as a need in the marketplace. I saw a lot of applications, in the retail space specifically, that drove a consumer to a retail location, but once you got to the location there was no interaction or way to get information specific to the venue. The more I thought about that, the more I saw an opportunity.
 
GBA: How did you start developing SweetSpot?
 
RR: I started by looking at mobile networks and understanding how they work. I realized the problem with mobile networks is that they are very limited on bandwidth. There is a lot of limitation on being able to move content around. I also realized that all smartphones employed in the marketplace today have Wi-Fi on them. Once I realized these things, I thought about how I could take advantage of that infrastructure. Then we started putting together various components for our platform. We began looking at retail stores and saw that it is difficult to tell whether a retail store has a network or not. Their infrastructure is a bit spotty when you look at how you might move content around. We wanted to be able to localize content on our platform and have a consumer walk in and easily know how to log on to a Wi-Fi network. At that point the consumer would open up the browser on their phone to see content specific to the Wi-Fi zone at the venue. Out of that, we ended up building a very powerful platform, SweetSpot, where we could deliver content at specific venues and also add a bunch of other services on top of it. For example, perhaps you create content about a welcoming zone at a Whole Foods. We do that, but then we can also overweigh it with the ability for a brand like Coca-Cola to sponsor its own specials in that grocery store’s environment.

Green Buzz Agency is the leader in corporate and online video production services in Washington DC, Boston, Philadelphia and NYC! Subscribe to our newsletter for updates on all things video, marketing and GBA!

GBA: Why is this tool important?
 
RR: The SweetSpot platform brings two things together. One is the ability to bring digital content inside the store and make that a really strong consumer engagement tool. The other is the ability to integrate into the store’s infrastructure at some level, whether that is through payments, loyalty or other purposes. It brings together a very strong business proposition for a retailer because we address the consumer acquisition side of their business and look at the efficiencies of including the back-end processes that allow the consumer to start taking action within the store.
 
GBA: Is SweetSpot an app?
 
RR: No, it is a browser-based solution. That’s what makes it unique. It is designed to be very simple. The great part is that by creating a SweetSpot zone inside a store, anyone who walks in and has a smartphone can access the content. We’ve taken away a barrier for people to be able to interact with that store. When a consumer wants to use an app, they really have to think about things. They go to their app store, find the app, download it, sign in, etc. We essentially removed all of those steps. With SweetSpot, you simply walk in to the store, click on the SweetSpot Wi-Fi network on your phone and open your browser. The next time you go to that store, all you have to do is open up your browser because your phone automatically reconnects to the SweetSpot. We wanted to make this as simple as possible and open it up to as many people as possible. Our solution works on any Wi-Fi-enabled device that has a browser. So that includes smartphones, iPads and even 32” touch screens. We love the universal access we have to the different peripherals in the market today. As we see it moving forward, it’s future proof. We don’t have to worry about developing and redeveloping hardware. We just have to keep up with the browser.
 
GBA: How do people know when they are in a SweetSpot?
 
RR: That’s probably one of the most important aspects of any kind of new technology. When you take a product to a market, you have to look at how easy is it for a consumer to understand how to participate with that technology. For SweetSpot, there are a few strategies that can take place. A venue can use signage that tells consumers they are in a SweetSpot and provides 3-step instructions. That’s one way to engage and start building awareness. Another way is to have pre-launch announcements, including through the retailer or brand’s website or social media platforms. Finally, it’s really about the viral aspect of any technology. If you do something right, people will start talking about it and spread awareness.
 
GBA: How many SweetSpots are deployed now?
 
RR: We’re relatively new in our deployment, so we have a little less than 100 deployments of SweetSpots now. However, we are growing to have a very explosive new year with multiple opportunities we’re in talks with right now.
 
GBA: What is an example of a brand or retailer you work with?
 
RR: Well, our first client is Toyota. We deployed with Toyota Servco in Hawaii, and we originally started at a trade show where we created a special hybrid zone. There was no pre-announcement about the SweetSpot. There were only two signs that said “Welcome and log on to the Toyota SweetSpot.” We ended up having hundreds of people log on, and when Toyota compared our numbers to all of the QR codes on the different cars at the show, we had a 360 percent increase in usage over QR codes. From there, we have expanded out with Gulf States Toyota, which is one of the largest distributors in the U.S. We just finished up a trade show down in Texas where we had two different zones deployed at that venue.
 
GBA: What has been your favorite deployment so far?
 
RR: One of my favorites was in a casual dining restaurant called Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Tony has been noted as one of the top pizza makers in the U.S., and he has a location here in San Francisico. We deployed a SweetSpot inside of Tony’s restaurant. In that location, there is tons of content available. When you are put on the waitlist, you can open up to Tony’s SweetSpot and see your name on the waitlist, but better than that you can browse through the menus Tony presents. There’s also a bar section where you can look at the recipes for drinks and see how certain beers and wines pair with the food. We also created what we call a local social. Instead of going out to Facebook and Pinterest, we created the ability for everyone in Tony’s to post comments. Only those in Tony’s restaurant can see the comments and participate in that. The SweetSpot in this location created a way to integrate relationships and present Tony’s products in his restaurant.

GBA: How are you marketing to the brands and retailers you want to deploy these SweetSpots?
 
RR: Our go-to market is really through channel partners. We have a direct sales group, but we are primarily focused on working with marketing agencies that already have relationships with the brands and retailers. Agencies are always looking for new engagement tools, and that’s really what our platform is. We work with agencies that are looking at include us in their pitches to clients. They look for opportunities to engage the consumer with digital content. We add to this by taking digital content and creating a user-engagement tool for while consumers are at the point of decision. That is a huge difference in terms of what we are doing in the marketplace versus a lot of other companies.
 
GBA: What are your plans for SweetSpot’s future?
 
RR: Our objective within the next year is to work with at least 10 to 20 brands that consumers really associate themselves with in the marketplace. We also want to work with the top 10 to 20 retailers that have very good distribution in the marketplace. Our main focus will be in a few different areas. One is the auto industry. We think we have a great solution for auto, not only for new products, but also for engaging people in the service area. We also have a great solution for the casual dining industry, including quick-service restaurants like McDonalds. Outside of that we are looking at convenience stores. We have a platform that allows you to drive up to a gas station, and through SweetSpot, while you are in the car you can activate the pump and purchase items from inside. You jump out, start pumping the gas, grab the goods you bought and take off when you’re done. We’re very interested in that industry, and we are in multiple discussions to get a deployment within the next six months.

For more information, visit the SweetSpot website or email info@sweetspot-wifi.com.

There’s no question about it. Mobile marketing only continues to grow, and marketers must start finding ways to incorporate mobile into business models. SweetSpot WiFi offers a new solution to mobile marketing with a browser-based platform that allows retailers and brands to engage consumers on-site. GBA spoke with SweetSpot founder Ryan Ross to find out more about this exciting new tool:
 
GBA: How did you come up with the idea for SweetSpot?
 
RR: SweetSpot was formed to address what I perceived as a need in the marketplace. I saw a lot of applications, in the retail space specifically, that drove a consumer to a retail location, but once you got to the location there was no interaction or way to get information specific to the venue. The more I thought about that, the more I saw an opportunity.
 
GBA: How did you start developing SweetSpot?
 
RR: I started by looking at mobile networks and understanding how they work. I realized the problem with mobile networks is that they are very limited on bandwidth. There is a lot of limitation on being able to move content around. I also realized that all smartphones employed in the marketplace today have Wi-Fi on them. Once I realized these things, I thought about how I could take advantage of that infrastructure. Then we started putting together various components for our platform. We began looking at retail stores and saw that it is difficult to tell whether a retail store has a network or not. Their infrastructure is a bit spotty when you look at how you might move content around. We wanted to be able to localize content on our platform and have a consumer walk in and easily know how to log on to a Wi-Fi network. At that point the consumer would open up the browser on their phone to see content specific to the Wi-Fi zone at the venue. Out of that, we ended up building a very powerful platform, SweetSpot, where we could deliver content at specific venues and also add a bunch of other services on top of it. For example, perhaps you create content about a welcoming zone at a Whole Foods. We do that, but then we can also overweigh it with the ability for a brand like Coca-Cola to sponsor its own specials in that grocery store’s environment.

Green Buzz Agency is the leader in corporate and online video production services in Washington DC, Boston, Philadelphia and NYC! Subscribe to our newsletter for updates on all things video, marketing and GBA!

GBA: Why is this tool important?
 
RR: The SweetSpot platform brings two things together. One is the ability to bring digital content inside the store and make that a really strong consumer engagement tool. The other is the ability to integrate into the store’s infrastructure at some level, whether that is through payments, loyalty or other purposes. It brings together a very strong business proposition for a retailer because we address the consumer acquisition side of their business and look at the efficiencies of including the back-end processes that allow the consumer to start taking action within the store.
 
GBA:  Is SweetSpot an app?
 
RR: No, it is a browser-based solution. That’s what makes it unique. It is designed to be very simple. The great part is that by creating a SweetSpot zone inside a store, anyone who walks in and has a smartphone can access the content. We’ve taken away a barrier for people to be able to interact with that store. When a consumer wants to use an app, they really have to think about things. They go to their app store, find the app, download it, sign in, etc. We essentially removed all of those steps. With SweetSpot, you simply walk in to the store, click on the SweetSpot Wi-Fi network on your phone and open your browser. The next time you go to that store, all you have to do is open up your browser because your phone automatically reconnects to the SweetSpot. We wanted to make this as simple as possible and open it up to as many people as possible. Our solution works on any Wi-Fi-enabled device that has a browser. So that includes smartphones, iPads and even 32” touch screens. We love the universal access we have to the different peripherals in the market today. As we see it moving forward, it’s future proof. We don’t have to worry about developing and redeveloping hardware. We just have to keep up with the browser.
 
GBA: How do people know when they are in a SweetSpot?
 
RR: That’s probably one of the most important aspects of any kind of new technology. When you take a product to a market, you have to look at how easy is it for a consumer to understand how to participate with that technology. For SweetSpot, there are a few strategies that can take place. A venue can use signage that tells consumers they are in a SweetSpot and provides 3-step instructions. That’s one way to engage and start building awareness. Another way is to have pre-launch announcements, including through the retailer or brand’s website or social media platforms. Finally, it’s really about the viral aspect of any technology. If you do something right, people will start talking about it and spread awareness.
 
GBA: How many SweetSpots are deployed now?
 
RR: We’re relatively new in our deployment, so we have a little less than 100 deployments of SweetSpots now. However, we are growing to have a very explosive new year with multiple opportunities we’re in talks with right now.
 
GBA: What is an example of a brand or retailer you work with?
 
RR: Well, our first client is Toyota. We deployed with Toyota Servco in Hawaii, and we originally started at a trade show where we created a special hybrid zone. There was no pre-announcement about the SweetSpot. There were only two signs that said “Welcome and log on to the Toyota SweetSpot.” We ended up having hundreds of people log on, and when Toyota compared our numbers to all of the QR codes on the different cars at the show, we had a 360 percent increase in usage over QR codes. From there, we have expanded out with Gulf States Toyota, which is one of the largest distributors in the U.S. We just finished up a trade show down in Texas where we had two different zones deployed at that venue.
 
GBA: What has been your favorite deployment so far?
 
RR: One of my favorites was in a casual dining restaurant called Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Tony has been noted as one of the top pizza makers in the U.S., and he has a location here in San Francisico. We deployed a SweetSpot inside of Tony’s restaurant. In that location, there is tons of content available. When you are put on the waitlist, you can open up to Tony’s SweetSpot and see your name on the waitlist, but better than that you can browse through the menus Tony presents. There’s also a bar section where you can look at the recipes for drinks and see how certain beers and wines pair with the food. We also created what we call a local social. Instead of going out to Facebook and Pinterest, we created the ability for everyone in Tony’s to post comments. Only those in Tony’s restaurant can see the comments and participate in that. The SweetSpot in this location created a way to integrate relationships and present Tony’s products in his restaurant.

GBA: How are you marketing to the brands and retailers you want to deploy these SweetSpots?
 
RR: Our go-to market is really through channel partners. We have a direct sales group, but we are primarily focused on working with marketing agencies that already have relationships with the brands and retailers. Agencies are always looking for new engagement tools, and that’s really what our platform is. We work with agencies that are looking at include us in their pitches to clients. They look for opportunities to engage the consumer with digital content. We add to this by taking digital content and creating a user-engagement tool for while consumers are at the point of decision. That is a huge difference in terms of what we are doing in the marketplace versus a lot of other companies.
 
GBA: What are your plans for SweetSpot’s future?
 
RR: Our objective within the next year is to work with at least 10 to 20 brands that consumers really associate themselves with in the marketplace. We also want to work with the top 10 to 20 retailers that have very good distribution in the marketplace. Our main focus will be in a few different areas. One is the auto industry. We think we have a great solution for auto, not only for new products, but also for engaging people in the service area. We also have a great solution for the casual dining industry, including quick-service restaurants like McDonalds. Outside of that we are looking at convenience stores. We have a platform that allows you to drive up to a gas station, and through SweetSpot, while you are in the car you can activate the pump and purchase items from inside. You jump out, start pumping the gas, grab the goods you bought and take off when you’re done. We’re very interested in that industry, and we are in multiple discussions to get a deployment within the next six months.

For more information, visit the SweetSpot website or email info@sweetspot-wifi.com.

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