iValu8 Inc., a cloud-based marketing platform, is trying to solve the problem of how businesses can better connect with their customers.
The Chapel Hill-based company is using loyalty programs along with mobile, social and venue marketing to improve company-customer relationships. iValu8 specifically wanted to help the smaller businesses that previously wouldn’t have been able to afford digital technology.
“Part of the reason we developed this business was huge companies could do mobile and social marketing,” said co-founder and Vice President Andrew L. Fox, regarding the company founded in 2013. “The vision was smaller companies couldn’t do it because they were expensive so we tried to come up with a tool that would help small businesses do it automatically.”
iValu8 has clients such as Joe Van Gogh Coffee, Doyle’s Vineyard, and Caffe Driade, as well as partnerships with Cisco and Clover. While the company tries to offer a more-affordable option for smaller companies, it still does work for larger Fortune 500 organizations.
Only the Beginning
In 2012 digital advertising grew 17 percent and took 20 percent of the global advertising market, and that was only the beginning.
Since then, millennial buying power has driven an increased spend in online advertising. By 2021 digital advertising is estimated to account for 46 percent of all advertising.
Along with that, social media platforms now have an estimated 2.46 billions users across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WeChat, and several others. eMarketer surveyed U.S. companies with 100 or more employees and found that 88 percent were utilizing social media for marketing purposes in one way or another.
iValu8 tries to capitalize on this by offering several different services that operate on mobile and desktop platforms. These services include mobile and social media marketing, loyalty and reward marketing, and in-store and venue marketing.
“It took about a year to build the platform and then began working with a number of customers, mainly for events,” said Fox. “It was a good platform, but we had troubling scaling and selling the platform to businesses because they didn’t want to deal with the work of it.”
He continued, “So we partnered with Cisco a couple years ago and connected it to a number of their networking programs and created VivaSpot, which is what we focus on, and sell now.”
That is how the cloud platform company differentiates itself from competitors — by operating over VivaSpot, a Wi-Fi system developed by iValu8 that automatically connects with customers the moment they log on to the Internet.
VivaSpot automatically requires email or social profile information in order to log on to the wireless service, but that allows the company a way to gather relevant customer information and feedback. It also allows for opportunities to provide rewards and incentives to both new and returning customers, which can result in increased loyalty.
Fox said, “We run over Wi-Fi and are all about frictionless engagement. We aren’t overtly in your face; we’re subtle. We won’t capture every customer, but we’ll get about 30 to 40 percent because not everyone connects to Wi-Fi.”
According to Fox this is one of the more successful options on the market because most conversion rates are only 10 percent and can result in lead costs of around $50. VivaSpot lead generation costs around 30 cents per lead.
The lower costs are another benefit of iValu8 because there are different pricing and package options that most companies could likely afford.
That cost variation can make all the difference for a small, local business.
Big or small, all need it
Regardless of the size, all businesses need to capture information about their customers in order to more successfully engage and sell product. Fox discussed how iValu8 is able to help streamline that process
Customers are typically more accepting of emails from companies they frequent or often make purchases from, which results in a lower churn and unsubscribe rate. This is what VivaSpot capitalizes on as it is able to keep track of rate of customer visits and has access to specific digital triggers of each individual customer.
Engaging through Wi-Fi also limits what Fox refers to as “app fatigue.”
There are various ways that iValu8 measures the success of a campaign. In some cases return on investment can be measures and the company employees can determine that customers are being driven back to clients and using offers provided. However, not every solution is sold with a point-of-sale platform so that measurement isn’t always possible.
When that happens, they will measure how many emails were collected or how many Facebook check-ins were logged, which can be the equivalent of about $250 worth of Facebook advertisements, said Fox.
There can also be customization based on the needs of a business.
Fox discussed one particular example regarding an iValu8 client, Furniture Land South, located in Winston-Salem.
He said, “When customers log into Wi-Fi, we ask them to visit a certain part of the store because that’s where the highest margin is for products. And we can check if they actually go there or not and determine the rate of success for our message that results in direct profit for Furniture Land.”
What’s in Store
iValu8 recently raised $559,750 in the form of debt in an attempt to raise a total of $1 million. Fox said those funds are being used to better VivaSpot and increase sales.
“It’s definitely being used to increase revenue. We know where it sells and where it is successful so it is all about increasing sales,” he said.
The company has some channels that it utilizes to sell product, such as the point-of-sale platform Clover it is partnered with, and it gets sold through Cisco as well. There are also inbound leads on occasion or it can be as simple as knocking on doors or walking into a store, said Fox.
However, Fox also mentioned, “It’s a lot of work and a lot of doors getting slammed because a lot of clients don’t understand the technology.”
He went over what he truly feels makes iValu8 and its offerings special.
“Digital marketing started with the web and it could become very personalized, but there was no way to do that in a physical environment but our offering helps bring that personalized experience to the physical space. It makes each one individualized,” he stated.
iValu8 is capitalizing on the movement toward a more digital advertising space and has found a way to make it feel less robotic and forced, which ultimately results in more success for its product. Each aspect from loyalty marketing to lead generating creates one unique experience that varied from client to client.
Fox helps lead the company alongside Chief Executive Officer Joe Carsanaro.