Eran Eyal, chief executive officer and co-founder of Shopin.com

The retail industry is already on track for a record-breaking year in 2018. Unfortunately, that record is for the amount of retail square footage expected to be vacated. As of April, more than 90 million square feet will be shuttered, easily surpassing the record set last year when 105 million square feet of retail space was vacated.

The companies that are facing the biggest challenges in the current retail environment are those that were late to implement technologies that aligned with shifting consumer preferences for omnichannel shopping experiences.

Right now, there’s another technology emerging on the horizon that will have a similar disruptive impact on the industry: blockchain. Mortimer Singer, chief executive officer of Traub, and his team at the firm believe the time to adopt blockchain in retail is now. “Taking a proactive approach to blockchain implementation presents the retail industry with an opportunity to change the narrative from retail apocalypse to retail innovation,” Singer noted. One platform Singer said is worth looking at is the Shopin app, which he said allows retailers to identify “relevant users who have raised their hand and are willing to engage with marketing messages, reducing the reliance on advertising with Amazon, Google, and Facebook, and instead allocating those budgets to what matters most: Shoppers.”

Shopin describes its technology as helping to create a “closed-loop economy” that rewards shoppers for their time, attention and loyalty while “enabling sophisticated targeting and dynamic storytelling based on their Shopin Profile versus pushing one-size-fits-all messaging.”

Here, Singer engages in a discussion with Eran Eyal, chief executive officer and cofounder of Shopin.com, about the technology, how it works and how retailers and brands can benefit from it.

Mortimer Singer: What is Shopin?

Eran Eyal: Shopin is the first universal shopper profile that delivers the most personal shopping experience on retailers’ web sites, apps and stores based on shopper preferences and purchase history data. Shoppers are in full control of their data for the first time with a cryptocurrency to reward them when their attention is engaged with ads, content and loyalty, and they are able to spend Shopin Tokens together with traditional currencies, also known as Fiat, at participating web sites.

Shopin empowers retailers to offer better product recommendations, easier and more secure transactions, and more valuable customer rewards using blockchain and Artificial Intelligence.

M.S.: Why did you decide to create Shopin? What was the impetus behind it?

E.E.: Shopin was founded based on the realization that most retailers don’t truly know the customers who visit their e-commerce sites, apps and physical stores. Retailers are closing at a rapid rate for many reasons, and while some of these reasons are related to other external forces, real estate trends, shifting consumer preferences, etc., they tend to all share one basic foundation: low conversions.

The rapid deterioration of so many incredible retail brands was the genesis of Shopin. Using next-gen Artificial Intelligence and blockchain technology, Shopin is helping to create a more sustainable retail economy where retailers become stronger by working together and shoppers get rewarded based on the value of the data that they fully own and control.

M.S.: Why do you think retail needs Shopin now?

E.E.: In 2017, more than 6,400 retail stores in American malls closed and at least another 3,600 are expected to close in 2018. The global retail industry is struggling as well. Across the board, retailers don’t have enough first-party purchase data and shopper-verified preferences to fully understand shoppers and what products they want to buy. Retailers are facing decreasing margins, more competition and a loss of direct connection with their customers on Amazon, eBay, Jet.com and other online platforms.

Shopin is building a protocol for the web to engage with users and provide them with the most personal experience across every website and physical store, to exchange commensurate financial value for their time and attention, and to realize a profitable and sustainable future for retailers and brands. Our solution is designed to help retailers overcome the challenges posed by Amazon.

M.S.: How does Shopin work?

E.E.: By setting up a Shopin Profile, consumers automatically store all their transaction and preference information on a secure blockchain database. They can keep the information completely private or choose to share it with their favorite retail brands in return for personalized recommendations and other marketing incentives and rewards.

The Shopin Profile is the first Federated, permissioned blockchain system that combines value (the Shopin Token) and data (preference and transaction information). Storage and distributed application processing nodes are provided by retail partners, while keys to the profile data are entirely controlled by consumers.

M.S.: What will it look like?

E.E.: All retailer/shopper transactions will continue to take place on retailers’ sites, allowing them to control the user experience and build brand equity with their shoppers. However, via the Shopin app, wallet, and single sign-on, shoppers will be recognized across the open retail web via their historical purchase data. Retailers will be able to recognize Shopin users when they come back to their website or store and provide personalized product recommendations that align with that shopper’s style preferences.

To get started, shoppers are asked to participate in a fun, gamified Shopin Profile on-boarding experience where they are asked questions about their styles preferences, fashion aspirations and sizes. The more information they share with their profile, the smarter the Shopin AI-powered recommendation engine becomes, and shoppers are encouraged on an ongoing basis to enrich their profile by uploading photos of styles they see in magazines, on the street, in clothing stores online and offline.

All of this shopper profile data and the consumer’s purchase history data (from the entire retail universe that they shop in) is completely private, owned and controlled by the shopper.

M.S.: Why use blockchain?

E.E.: We are on the blockchain because it’s the only solution that offers decentralized and secure data storage for users. Additionally, blockchain enables an environment where competing retailers can benefit from each other’s purchase data without directly sharing it. This unique ability allows Shopin to power retailers’ product recommendations in a way that truly rivals e-commerce aggregators such as Amazon. Finally, blockchain allows us to offer a universal reward platform in the form of a cryptocurrency, the Shopin Token, which never expires.

M.S.: What is the Shopin Token?

E.E.: The Shopin Token is our solution to incredibly inefficient loyalty systems that are in place today. It’s clear that loyalty rewards programs aren’t working, as $100 billion in loyalty points went unredeemed in 2017. The Shopin Token will be used to facilitate the mutually beneficial exchange of information between retailers and consumers for more personalized and efficient transactions. Retailers exchange tokens with consumers when their attention is engaged via ads, content and other programming. Consumers can then exchange the tokens for merchandise or services at any Shopin retail partner or redeem them directly as a monetary reward.

M.S.: Any final thoughts?

E.E.: We’re aiming to reinvigorate the retail economy by streamlining the entire shopping experience. By deploying blockchain technology to store value, purchase and profile data, we are empowering retailers on the open web to provide a decentralized Amazon-like experience to their shoppers with recommendations powered by AI.

We believe the current approach to managing user data within the retail community will lead to more individual brands and retailers continuing to struggle while e-commerce aggregators continue to thrive at their expense.

Shopin provides another path forward, however, where retailers can all succeed by banding together and shoppers are rewarded based on the value of the data that they fully own and control.

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