Last updated: 05:00 PM ET, Fri June 12 2015

Tapcentive: Presenting a New Way for Travelers to Use Location-based Technology

Travel Technology | Ryan Rudnansky | June 12, 2015

Tapcentive: Presenting a New Way for Travelers to Use Location-based Technology

Photo courtesy of Tapcentive

A lot has been made about how location-based technology can improve the traveler’s experience traveling forward.

But one company foresaw how it can hurt the guest experience if not utilized properly, and came up with a potential solution.

Tapcentive—a mobile marketing platform formed in 2013 that focuses on entertainment/hospitality (including casinos), consumer brands and general retail—does indeed use location-based technology. But the company doesn’t use beacons or push notifications like many other companies.

Instead, Tapcentive sets up devices throughout a space—whether it be at a hotel or on a cruise ship—that can be tapped with a guest’s phone to deliver rewards and extra goodies (the devices are similar to Apple Pay devices).

Dave Wentker, CEO of Tapcentive, said he sees the advantages of in-location technology, but he doesn’t like the idea of bombarding people’s phones with notifications.

“We're strong believers in presenting the opportunity for customers to engage, give them a means to make the decision and make it easy for them to do it so they’re motivated. Let them make the first move,” Wentker said.

Wentker said that as the advertiser and marketer gets closer to the customer moving forward, the biggest challenge is going to be the emotions of the customer at the point of contact.

The potential drawback of sending a notification to a guest at a certain location is you don’t really know how he or she is going to react at that given time. Maybe it’s relevant to them, but maybe they’re busy at the time, too. And when you start messing with people’s phones, that can take a turn for the worse.

“When they put that advertising message on a mobile phone, that phone belongs to a person,” Wentker said. “You don’t get a more personal device than a mobile phone.”

“When the phone starts buzzing as you’re wandering around the environment, there’s no way that the brand can control whether that’s going to have a good impact or a bad impact,” he added. “And a bad impact can have a very negative impact in the sense that you’re suddenly in a bad mood about the environment because you just got what you think of as spam on your phone in the middle of what should be a happy travel experience. Now, you have a negative association with the brand. It’s just not worth the risk (for advertisers and marketers).”

So, Tapcentive still believes in providing an interactive, personalized experience for the guest, it firmly believes in the power of an ongoing relationship with the customer, but where it differs with many other platforms is that it is allowing guests to open the present themselves, instead of opening it for them, so to speak.

In that sense, “If the brand has a good message, I’m in a positive frame of mind and I’m going to be more likely to respond to it and do what the marketer is hoping, versus (the marketer) rolling the dice as to what the (customer’s) first reaction is,” Wentker said.

Wentker calls it “an interactive doorway,” as if you’re walking into a retail store. Except, in contrast to a physical store, guests and customers have a better idea of what they’re getting into.

“Like a ‘Happy Hour’ sign at a lounge,” Wentker said.

Wentker formerly held senior leadership positions at Visa. It’s there he learned that it’s better to build customer habits than to send the customer straight to the payment process.

“We knew that the real exciting value for a brand was: How can you influence behavior before payment happens? How can you encourage people to do things?”

Wentker believes that Tapcentive can accomplish this. In addition to how Tapcentive uses location-based technology, it also focuses on something that more and more companies appear to be tapping into: gamification.

Gamification, or creating a game-like experience, has its benefits, Wentker said. If it’s all about the customer experience, what better way than to present fun challenges, and then reward the customer for accomplishing those challenges?

For example, Tapcentive’s devices located throughout a hotel or cruise ship can act as markers to be found. In that regard, it’s almost like a “treasure hunt,” Wentker said. Find two or three more across the space and unlock double rewards. Ask your friend to find one near him or her and get rewarded together.

“(As a customer), I’m exploring; I’m discovering,” Wentker said.

“Location and gamification together is really where things get exciting. (Customers) are consuming marketing messages much more willingly,” he added. “That’s where I think we’re really pioneering something new.”

Wentker said Tapcentive’s approach revolves around three main things: security/privacy for the customer, reliability and simplicity.

In terms of security and privacy, Wentker said “there’s a broad general awareness and discomfort with the idea that a lot of approaches to in-location have been around tracking and interrupting you. That privacy sensitivity is so significant that that’s why we’ve developed Tapcentive.”

Wentker also said that the technology Tapcentive uses is reliable, noting that location-based technologies such as beacons can be complicated and difficult to work with.

The simplicity of Tapcentive is also part of the platform’s bread and butter.

“The only way you’re going to get consumers to develop habits is to give them a simple mechanism,” he said.

One thing’s for sure: Travelers can expect to see much more location-based technology moving forward. And they appear to have much more choice of which location-based technologies they can tap into, too.



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