This is part 5 of my ten-part series on the most important digital advances, in which I'm sharing exclusive insights on trending companies that are among the media industry's hottest and most interesting. To read the full series, visit http://www.jackmyers.com/media-business-report
Linkable Networks (www.linkablenetworks.com)
As the only card-linked offer company that can provide merchant and individual product (SKU-level) offers, Linkable Networks brings innovative technology to the couponing universe. In 2011 more than 300 billion coupons were distributed in the US. Seventy percent of them were SKU based and 89% were paper. The coupon industry is one of the last markets to go digital due to technical complexities of enabling SKU-based offers. Linkable, with its ability to link-enable all forms of coupons, has broken the code on digitizing the $4 billion coupon industry. Based in Boston, Linkable Networks offers card-linked offers and discounts, called MyLinkables, which include a variety of advertising forms such as print, banner, text, mobile ads, television, radio, and video. These forms of advertising are then supported by the majority of credit and debit cards. Consumers and advertisers have a multitude of benefits from Linkable Networks linked offers, including offering consumers a way to save on products they regularly purchase, and giving advertisers many more opportunities to reach out to their potential customers.
Linkable Networks Goes Above and Beyond
According to Tom Burgess, the founder and CEO of Linkable Networks, "Our technology allows consumers to link store-level and item-level offers directly to the credit or debit card of choice." Burgess further explains, "For consumers, Linkable delivers one-click access to meaningful savings." This marks the end of clipping, printing, and organizing coupons. Linkable Networks is the only SKU-enabled card-linked company of their kind, with individual linked offers for credit and debit cards. In addition to the consumer benefits, brands and retailers gain significant value from Linkables purchase behavior reporting and direct to consumer interaction. Competitors for store-based card linked offers include Cartera, Cardlytics and EDO Interactive.
Linkable offers go directly onto whatever credit card is registered, which will be recognized when an offer is "linked" and the same card is used at a retailer. Offers can be found in ads across all media types as well as on MyLinkables.com and MyLinkables mobile apps. The customer receives an email or text confirmation once the offer has been applied to the card and discounts are listed on the shoppers monthly credit/debit statements. Offers can be applied privately, avoiding the need to present coupons at participating restaurants and other retail venues.
Linkable Networks Partners with 24/7 Real Media
Linkable Networks has also partnered with 24/7 Real Media to tap into consumers' quickly growing desire to utilize digital coupons that are directly linked to their debit and credit cards. "We are dedicated to providing innovative and effective marketing technologies to our advertisers, and view the Linkable Networks' platform as a perfect fit with our current capabilities," said Ari Bluman, President of North American Sales and Operations at 24/7 Real Media. "Linkables facilitates a level of interaction with brand marketing that has not previously existed. When added to a display or banner advertisement running on our Global Web Alliance, this new functionality gives the consumer a financial incentive to click-through and engage. I'm excited about all the different ways we can integrate Linkables into our clients' campaigns." While the 24/7 relationship has been slow to expand, as card-linked offers gain public awareness and usage, marketers will seek solutions and opportunities.
Linkable Networks Benefits Advertisers
Offers and rewards that are card-linked by Linkable Networks include nearly any form of advertising, allowing for multi-media broad advertising capabilities. This includes radio, television, video, text, mobile ads, print, and banners. Advertisers can take advantage of this technology by reaching out not only to a larger audience, but to consumers interested in your products and brands specifically. Obviously, online activation is the most advantageous connection, since users can easily register and simply click once to apply an offer/discount to their credit card for future use.
Investors in Linkable Networks include Bain Capital Ventures, Boston-based CommonAngels, Kepha Partners, Citi Ventures and a yet to be named additional financial services company. Founders and senior executives are Tom Burgess, founder and CEO, who was the founder of Third Screen Media, which was sold to AOL in 2007. David Chapman is Chief Financial Officer.
Wendr is one of several companies competing in the advancing world of social media discovery applications, with place-based marketing opportunities. Wendr, founded by Sam Zises, former Ogilvy & Mather marketing and business development manager, lets users discover their friend's plans each night by allowing them to set a status color. Green indicating "Going out", orange for "Open to suggestions," and red for "Staying in". Zises says "Wendr solves an everyday problem very directly. We're about making your real life more social. Instead of wasting time calling, texting and messaging all of your friends to see what they're doing tonight, Wendr allows you to coordinate plans with your friends more efficiently, so you can stop 'checking-in' and start hanging out." Privacy is very important to the creators of Wendr, and the user has full control over which friends can see their plans each night. Wendr also allows friends to be added to groups called "Crews", which are private so friends don't know which one they're in.
At a recent AdAge Digital conference, Budweiser held a competitive search to find a technology startup to partner with. Wendr won, beating out five other finalists with flying colors, by introducing their "Buds by Budweiser" app concept. Wendr presented an idea leveraging its technology where friends could "Tap a Bud" to hang out, then "Check in with a Bud" at a bar and "Win a Bud" on the house. Wendr landed a $25,000 partnership with the beer company and plans to announce exciting news about their deal soon.
Wendr Stands Out from Competitors
While there are several competing apps and services in this space, Wendr's advantages are in its clean and simple user interface, its sole focus on tonight and its leadership that has a strong understanding of how to service brands through strategic content marketing. Wendr strives to earn real estate on your home screen by being your dashboard for all things tonight. Whether you want to catch a movie with a friend, find a restaurant to eat at or browse upcoming concerts and sporting events to attend, Wendr plans to facilitate it.
Advertising with Wendr
Upon its first release, Wendr was 100% ad-free, however, soon after they established deals with various entertainment companies and nighttime event providers including Fandango, SeatGeek, Seamless, HotelTonight, Uber and NightOut.com. It's important to note that Wendr only plans to integrate relevant advertising partners that enhance the users experience within the overall application experience.
With Wendr, it's all about SoLoMo (social, local, mobile). Wendr is able to offer advertising partners a revolutionary marketing opportunity. Wendr allows for these partners to access consumers at a pivotal moment for making a purchase decision. Few platforms, if any, are more focused on consumers looking for immediate nighttime activities and entertainment.
Upcoming Features & Partnerships
Wendr is currently in development on two major feature enhancements: Foursquare powered Location and Nighttime Event Discovery, which will aggregate content from you and your friends mobile phone's native calendar, Facebook Events & Check ins, Foursquare Check ins and Tweets with #TONIGHT.
Wendr recently signed a deal with a major mobile technology company / brand and is in development on a co-branded application for their Latin American market. The product is due to be released before the end of the year and more details will be announced soon.
Wendr is currently available on iOS for most Apple phones and devices and will also be available for Blackberry OS before the end of the year. Wendr plans to release an Android version shortly thereafter.
Among the many new shopping websites comes ShopSocially.com, a cloud-based social commerce app and website that has many major retailers as clients. A privately-held company based in Mountain View, CA, the white label service enables commerce sites and online retailers to embed social media tools without dealing with HTML or writing code. Clients include Sephora, CafePress, Sears, The Children's Place, Sport Chalet, Ritz and Zales.
The built-in social apps include Get-a-fan, Share-a-Promotion, Viral Offer Sharing, Share-a-Purchase, Ask-a-Friend, and more. These social apps are added to the retailer's page where a customer can benefit by receiving special discounts or promotions while browsing for products they're looking for. The social media apps provided by ShopSocially go far beyond the traditional Twitter and Facebook buttons, which customers and retailers have come to expect.
Because this type of social media promotion does not directly sell products or services, ShopSocially enables social media to advertise new products and encourage shoppers to connect online with retailers through social commerce solutions. According to Samir Palnitkar, the president of ShopSocially, "We were thrilled when one of our retailers saw an increase of nearly $1 million in revenues per year by integrating with the ShopSocially solution."
Although ShopSocially launched shortly after two of their competitors with similar social commerce solutions, Blippy and Swipely, its automated social commerce solution allows for a private and casual method of encouraging future purchases through social interaction. Retailers can promote current deals and discounts, offers, events, videos, and more. Additional benefits to advertisers include improving the social integration of their website, promoting products and brands virally, and of course increasing sales.
Jai Rawat, founder of ShopSocially, has said "Retailers can integrate with ShopSocially's social commerce platform to harness the tremendous power of social recommendations. ShopSocially helps turn every purchase into a conversation and a social endorsement driving significant friend referred traffic back to the retailer site." Investors include Valhalla Partners with angel funding from Raman Khanna, Ashish Gupta, and Dharmesh Thakker. Rawat has spent the last 18 years focusing on various investments, entrepreneur projects and mentoring startups. His previous startups include Obongo, which was purchased by AOL.
Karma is a revolutionary way to get wi-fi from any hotspot using its unique pay-as-you-go feature. By purchasing a special portable hotspot device from Karma, users get to log into anyone's wi-fi hotspot, while getting more bandwidth for themselves, as well as the person whose wi-fi they're tapping into. Currently, Karma provides 4G service in approximately 80 cities throughout the United States using pay-as-you-go rather than a monthly fee. With Karma, there's no minimum fee. Owners of the wi-fi hotspot don't have to share their service with Karma users, but if they do, they get free data as an extra perk. Aside from having access to wi-fi hotspots, Karma also integrates social media features into their system. Karma works with any Internet service provider and device, including laptops and netbooks, mobile phones, and tablet computers. Other pay-as-you-go wi-fi systems exist, but they don't have the advantages that Karma offers. Boingo for instance, offers wi-fi that you pay for, but it requires monthly fees, which can quickly add up. Boingo also has more limited connectivity options. Pay-as-you-go wi-fi is also available from many Internet companies, but they are limited to hotspots within their network. By comparison, Karma works with any Internet service. The social wi-fi Karma, shouldn't be confused with the Karma gift-giving app, which Facebook recently purchased. Founder Robert Gaal, a Netherlands native, is a product designer with little formal education.
Editor's Note: Linkable Networks and Wendr are portfolio companies of Media Advisory Group, parent of Jack Myers Media Business Report.
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