Perch Deploys In-Store Tech to Help Retailers Close the Path to Purchase

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We all know about the bread and butter of location-based marketing technology: geo-targeted marketing campaigns that hit customers with ads when they’re in the vicinity of stores to drive them into a retailer’s brick-and-mortar location. Increasingly, though, retailers are leveraging in-store technology to ensure that customers follow all the way through on the path to purchase.

Perch is a marketing technology company providing one such solution. The company provides 3D sensing technology to help retailers set up cutting-edge displays that catch customers’ attention and lock down in-store transactions. Street Fight recently caught up with Perch CEO Trevor Sumner, who will speak at Street Fight’s Brooklyn summit this June, to hear about the latest at Perch and talk about how in-store marketing tech can lift brands’ bottom lines.

When was Perch founded, and how did it get to where it is today? What’s your philosophy?

Perch was founded in 2012, by Jared Shipman, who is our CTO. Jared is an MIT media lab guy who has twice been a national design award finalist, and he’s a real visionary. 

What’s different about us is that [our technology] can detect which products you are picking up and putting down, and respond with digital media. We’re really about uniting digital content with physical products.

So on the web, you can click on a product and unlock a lot of digital content. But why can’t you do that in store? And so for the first time with Perch, now you can. When you touch the Lebron shoe, there’s Lebron telling you about the shoe. When you pick up a fragrance Joe Malone at Joe Malone, it animates into honeysuckle and lemon or whatever you might smell out of the fragrance.

For us, our mission is to help usher in a sea change from static physical stores to digitally rich, interactive media centers. We’re all about creating a joyful experience for shopping. The bottom line is, that anything you put on a Perch, you sell 30 to 80 percent more of. Shoppers love it, the brands love it, and the retailers love it.

With how many and what kinds of retailers does Perch work?

It’s probably somewhere between 50 and 100, and this includes companies and designers such as Kate Spade, Johnson and Johnson, Shoprite, Neiman Marcus, Sephora, Bloomingdale’s, Lenovo, Mizuno, Reebok, PetCo, Joe Malone, Bumble and Bumble. We’ve done stuff in the beverage space; we’ve worked with Lexotica and Redbull. So there are a lot of retailers.

How do you market your technology to retailers?

We basically are doing targeted B2B outreach for people in marketing and operations and innovation and looking at people who are transforming indoor experience or are trying to market their products via in-store. We do a very personalized outreach. We’ve won a lot of awards—we won a Clio award, a Digi award, and this week we won a gold medal at the Edison Awards for retail innovation. We’ve got a lot of industry accolades, and we have a very good brand name, and so we use a lot of personalized outreach to tell people how we can help them.

How does Perch’s technology help retailers close the path to purchase by converting browsing shoppers to buyers?

One of the reasons that people go in store is to explore products, to touch them, to pick them up, to smell them, to feel them, picture what it’s really like to buy them, and to compare. If you think about all of the investment that brands have put into digital content—to help explain and sell their product and build the brand out—what we are effectively doing is unlocking the ability to bring that digital content in store.

There are so many products in store, but if you have any type of digital signage, usually it’s just a looping video about the brand. Now, you can actually literally message every single product on the shelf. We’re really unlocking product-level marketing in store, and we think of that as retail marketing 3.0, where 1.0 is physical retal, 2..0 is digital, and 3.0 is bringing them together. That way, you have all that exploration in store but with that digital content that we’ve come to demand.

How do you foresee developing your technology in the future? What functionalities are you missing or could improve upon?

We’re continuing to invest in computer vision and product recognition, so that we reduce that level of effort in installing and maintaining the displays. We’ve integrated more sensing technology, so we currently support RFID and computer sensing and optical frames. However, I think there are some interesting motion sensors via bluetooth low-energy that we can build into it.

We’re looking at integrating into a lot of the digital signage vendors out there, so they can sell Perch-enabled solutions that really address the shopper journey.

How is your technology unique from tech produced by companies similar to yours?

I think there are people doing stuff with RFID, people like Scala, who have a lift and learn solution. And basically, you actually have to tag something with an RFID tag, so there’s a lot of operational overhead, or you pick up a product and you tap it on a sensor. But what we’ve found is that you can’t teach new behavior to a shopper. To tell them that they have to go over and tap something is not part of their natural journey. We do support RFID, but we find there’s a lot of operational overhead, there’s a lot of teaching new behavior, the stickers fall off—there’s a bunch of challenges with it.

We also see a lot of interactive kiosk people. On the kiosk side of the house, why should I stop shopping, go over to the kiosk, go to clothing, men’s clothings, belts, leather belts, etc? It’s just a terrible customer experience.

As a result, kiosks are really focused on ordering. In the shopper discovery path, we’re not seeing kiosks be as effective. Typically, the kiosks market somewhere between 1 and 6 percent lift, and we’re showing 30 to 80 percent lift.

What are the main challenges retailers, who might not have super tech-savvy employees at every location, encounter in deploying Perch’s tech?

Our technology is actually really easy to deploy. They ship with 4G hotspots, so they don’t have to hook into your IT group or your network. There’s no PII. We have a campaign management system that’s really simple to use. Graphic designers can build these really immersive, interactive experiences without doing any coding at all.

The challenge is really about finding a budget and interacting with multiple different departments. This can touch at a retailer, their marketing group, their creative in-store group, their sales groups, and operations, and often the budget for this is unclear. The departments often share the budget, which you can imagine is a difficult cross-departmental process.

Also, we really encourage people to measure sales lift and look at the ROI, and not see this as a cost center but a profit generator. So we’re typically seeing 300 to 1600 ROI’s because of that sales lift, but for a lot of people they are doing a flagship or product launch, and they really just care about the aesthetic or the customer experience and engagement.

We’re really trying to educate people that this is not a project-level tool; this is a platform for the future of delivering in-store retail marketing experiences at scale. Getting people with the vision that this is something that needs to be deployed across categories, across the store—it’s hard for retailers to make some of those big bets, especially saddled with some of the financial debt that they have. And so culturally, there’s a lot of people involved, a little bit of a technophobia, and all these things are changing, but it’s definitely a process.

Anna Kramer is a staff writer at Street Fight.