Watch out Yelp trolls. You might want to wait to leave the premises before you make that snarky comment.
Revel Systems, a San Francisco-based company that makes point-of-sale software, will now notify businesses when someone has checked-in to their venue on Yelp or Foursquare through a small message in its tablet application. The notification will also surface past purchase data for certain customers, allowing a business to know whether the user is a one-time visitor or a repeat customer.
For the startup, the feature offers a way to help businesses take a more proactive approach to engaging a vocal minority of users who actively share opinions on social media and reviews sites, says Patrick Donnelly, the company’s vice president of marketing. Donnelly frames the product as part of broader effort by the company to help make the wealth of customer data available to businesses more helpful in informing the way they interact with customers.
Many brick-and-mortar business have had a turbulent relationship with companies like Yelp, which allow customers to post reviews online. Over the past year, a handful of businesses across the country have brought lawsuits against Yelp users, seeking monetary damages for alleged defamation for negative reviews. Yelp has also faced periodic, and unsubstantiated, claims that the company was extorting small businesses by only showing positive reviews if they paid for advertising on the service.
In many ways, the internet has already become the most important medium through which customers shape their opinions about brick-and-mortar businesses. In a 2013 study, four out of five respondents said they trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations. As Itamar Simonson pointed out in an interview with Street Fight earlier this year, reviews are quickly replacing advertising and other forms of marketing as the critical agent in shaping consumer perception of a business.
But discovery is just the beginning. New technologies are poised to expand the role of connectivity well beyond the the discovery process into the nuts and bolts of customer service. A host of emerging proximity messaging technologies will create the necessary bridge to allow the systems which retailers use to run the back-end of their business with consumer devices. Apple is reportedly set to expand the application of its iBeacon protocol, which works as an front door of sorts to allow nearby systems to communicate with the iPhone via Bluetooth low energy.
The value in a cloud-based point of sale system is that it can tie the two sides together. The traditional model built by companies like Micros, stores data in servers housed on-site, which effectively keeps the data created in the store within the store itself. However, by placing the software and the data in a centralized location (e.g. the cloud), the new batch of point of sale providers can start to blend the data created by consumers in the store (payments etc.) with data from their interactions online.
Over the past few years, the main selling point for Revel, Shopkeep and others has been that they’re less expensive. But the long-term value of a cloud-based system — and what will eventually draw larger brands away from traditional models — is the ability to build a single back-end system that powers the in-store experience as well as online and mobile shops as well.
Today, that means connecting a connecting a check-in with a face in-store. But that’s just the beginning.
Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.