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Interview with Shyam Rao, Co-founder & CEO at Punchh

In this interview, Shyam Rao, Co-founder & CEO at Punchh discusses how outdated technologies can hamper massive revenue opportunities for retailers, how ROI must be realized in months not years and leveraging analytics to beat competitors to the punch. Shyam started his career at Motorola, and advanced through the ranks to be Lead Engineer. Punchh is Shyam’s second entrepreneurial venture, after location-based tech offering LoCognition. Between these entrepreneurial ventures he worked at Merrill Lynch and and media services company Prime Focus. Shyam has a Bachelors degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto and holds an MBA from the University of Chicago

TDE: Tell us about your product/business and your specific role?

Shyam Rao: Punchh is a marketing automation platform that gives brick-and-mortar retailers the same data-driven marketing and relationship management capabilities that make online companies like Amazon so successful. One of our main focuses is on the restaurant industry, working with 100 restaurant chains across the globe and representing more than $12B in annual spend on our platform.

We help brick-and-mortar retailers of all types, including c-stores, gas stations, health and beauty, sporting arenas, and many others to transform customer relationships into revenue growth and higher customer lifetime value.

As Co-founder and CEO of Punchh, I am committed to growing our company into a market leader for next generation marketing software.

TDE: What is the core issue your product/technology aims to address and what sets it apart from the other players in the market?

Shyam Rao: We’ve built a suite of products that help retailers use their data to move customers up the value chain, to leverage the power of mobile and omnichannel experiences to first acquire, then grow relationships with customers in order to increase their lifetime value. There are really 3 different types of customers we’ve identified; Anonymous, Known, and Loyalist.

For each type of customer you need different marketing tools. When a customer is Anonymous, you need to bring them in the door and get them to make that first purchase (eg. using Facebook or WiFi). Once they’re Known you can start tailoring their guest experience (eg. remembering they are vegetarian or offering individualized coupons). If they are Loyal, you want to make sure they stay loyal by giving them continuous rewards in their mobile app.

Most brick-and-mortar retailers do not have the technological advances as e-commerce companies, like Amazon, do in order to know and understand who purchases their service or product. To solve this issue, Punchh’s all-encompassing platform manages the process of using mountains of data to build customer relationships and tailor every experience, at scale across hundreds of locations.

TDE: What’s the one industry, sector or role that your technology is most relevant to?

Shyam Rao: Punchh is relevant to multiple types of retailers, but we would consider ourselves most relevant to retailers with a brick and mortar presence. While similar to a CRM platform, we provide a software for brick and mortar retailers to better connect with their customers and build ongoing relationships.

TDE: What are some of the common challenges your customers approach you with?

Shyam Rao: Some of the key challenges we’re seeing is that the retailers themselves are missing out on massive revenue opportunities by using outdated technologies which don’t help them truly understand their customers especially their in-store and online behavior. As a brick-and-mortar retailer, if you’re not taking advantage of analytics and cutting-edge software that can help you understand the in-store as well as omnichannel behavior of your customers, your competitors will have a leg up and beat you to the punch(h) of gaining their loyalty.

TDE: Using technology to affect transformation usually starts with a transformation of beliefs and mindsets. How do you consult enterprise clients and help them make that important shift in mindset to move ahead on a particular project or implementation?

Shyam Rao: We advocate the importance of a data-driven approach for building customer relationships. Our platform enables our customers to address their biggest challenges – be it customer acquisition, retention or growth. We also convince them that the timelines for success need to be months not years. We are able to deploy solutions in less than 3-4 months and help the realize significant Return on Investment (ROI) within a few months after launch.

TDE: Give us an example of an enterprise meeting a digital transformation goal through your product?

Shyam Rao: Our client, Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast casual Mexican franchise with over 770 locations nationwide, had a online ordering digital transformation late last year when they switched online ordering providers to Olo.  Their legacy online ordering provider did not have the detailed level of API integration as we have with Olo.  Therefore, we were right away able to optimize their guest mobile and web online ordering experience. Thus driving tremendous growth in both online ordering transactions and revenue. They are now able to use Punchh to create item level offers for online orders and have a single sign on signup experience for their guests among other enhancements.

TDE: What present or upcoming technologies you think have the maximum potential to accelerate enterprise digital transformation?

Shyam Rao: Our Punchh Acquire product has the potential to accelerate brands’ digital transformation. We launched this product 3-6 months, and are seeing a huge demand from brands to use this product. For the first time in the industry, marketers can evaluate customer acquisition campaigns using a powerful metric – the acquisition cost per store visit or in-store/online purchase. Previously, they would only be able to evaluate customer acquisition effectiveness using metrics such as cost-per-click or cost-per-impression, but have no ability to reliably attribute actual purchases to the campaigns that they run. With our Punchh Acquire product, they can now use channels such as email, SMS, WiFi, social, and other digital channels to run customer acquisition campaigns and measure the cost-per-store visit or in-store/online purchase.

For more DX insights follow Shyam Rao on LinkedIn.

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