Location-based marketing and loyalty programs are things that our kids will probably take for granted someday. The only question is how annoying and intrusive they will be (the programs, not the kids—well, never mind).
A young tech startup called Adored, based in Manchester, NH, has just raised a $2.3 million seed round to get ahead in the sector. It’s not a lot of money, but it comes from leading Boston-area investors, including Kepha Partners, Boston Seed Capital, Matrix Partners, Kayak co-founder Paul English, and Crashlytics co-founder Wayne Chang. New Hampshire’s Borealis Ventures and Dyn CEO Jeremy Hitchcock also participated in the round.
Adored is led by co-founder and CEO Cory von Wallenstein, who was previously CTO at Dyn. Other founding team members come from Acquia and HubSpot, so there’s some serious New England tech DNA in this outfit.
What’s interesting is how quickly the team and its investors have coalesced around an emerging opportunity: using iBeacon transmitter technologies to beam personalized offers to customers in restaurants, cafes, and resorts. Of course, the location-based rewards scenario is a holy grail of mobile marketing, but after many years of effort in areas like indoor positioning, check-ins, and mobile offers, things seem to be falling into place.
“We’re heading into iBeacon 2.0,” says von Wallenstein. “The first iteration was folks excited about what the technology could do, but all deployments were stuck in silos.” For example, he says, Macy’s had beacons in its stores, but they only worked with the Macy’s app. Major League Baseball had beacons in ballparks, but they only worked with MLB’s apps.
Earlier this year, Facebook began testing a service that uses beacons to send people information about local businesses. Groupon is working on beacon-based targeted promotions. And Twitter Ventures recently invested in Swirl Networks, a Boston-based maker of beacon hardware and software for retail stores.
But Adored is banking on “horizontal experiences that work everywhere,” von Wallenstein says. The company has released a mobile app for iOS and Android that automatically checks people in at participating venues and offers them specials and discounts tailored to where they are and what they’re doing; think drink specials or recommendations for regulars. For merchants, Adored provides customer analytics, insights, and an opportunity to increase sales and the proverbial “engagement” and “experience” factors.
Now, to address those annoying privacy concerns (when will people just give up?): Adored’s app works anonymously—it doesn’t require you to give a name, e-mail, or account information, but rather ties your behavior to your phone via a mobile device identifier. So when you return to a favorite restaurant, say, it’s tracking your preferences and purchasing behavior without actually knowing who you are.
Adored is currently live in four metropolitan areas, including Manchester, and the seven-person company is looking to expand its service throughout New England. Its success will depend on word of mouth, creating great customer experiences, and generating big results for local merchants—not the easiest segment to win over with an emerging technology.
Nevertheless, the company is banking on being in the right place(s) at the right time. As English said in a press statement, “There are dozens if not hundreds of companies trying to do something similar—because it is such a great idea.” He and others are betting that the Adored team will actually make it work and, crucially, they think the market is finally ripe for the taking.