The word “platform” is thrown around a lot these days. It’s sometimes invoked for the sake of PR positioning, sometimes to make something sound more sophisticated than it is, but often the technology being described is really more of an application. A true platform is a central point in an ecosystem of apps that can be launched and managed from one place.
This is the definition that Sparkfly embodies. As I discussed with founder and CEO Catherine Tabor on the latest episode of Heard on the Street, the company integrates several local merchant functions through the single jumping-off point of its local merchant platform. This includes apps for customer acquisition, loyalty, and other pre-integrated functions.
“We do that by building this real-time bi-directional item-level interface to in-store systems,” Tabor said.”And we have this intelligence layer that through our APIs can go and connect all of these different third-party providers. So we can power a loyalty provider or an SMS provider and easily allow those different third-party vendors to interface with these in-store systems in a way that doesn’t require a 12-month integration project.”
Sparkfly’s flagship point of sale system (POS) is the central point of integration for these apps, which makes sense because it sits at the “last mile.” In other words, having marketing and customer acquisition tools directly integrated to one’s POS allows for better tracking, attribution, and a direct line to revenue performance.
But it’s also about reducing friction for merchants. A platform on which merchants can customize a unique mix of apps alleviates complexity that otherwise burdens them. They’re overwhelmed with options, so a preset and pre-integrated set of apps allows them to cherrypick and test with all the ease of an app store.
“I’ve been focused on the intersection of in-store and digital worlds for more than a dozen years, and one of the things that’s been so interesting to watch is this explosive growth in strategies and tools that enable merchants to interact with customers,” Tabor said. “There are so many loyalty providers and digital marketing providers. But it’s opened up a big challenge for these merchants… Retail POS systems are complex, and integrations take time, so how can they be nimble and test and learn with all of these innovations that are out there? And how can they craft that into a cohesive digital strategy?”