By Nolan Wheeler, SYNQ
What Is SYNQ?
SYNQ is four-year-old Loss Prevention Technology Company, but since then it has transformed into something much more. SYNQ initially offered a hybridized Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) CCTV camera system that offered push notifications of incidents for loss prevention purposes. SYNQ is now a holistic media and data solutions provider – the media product line now includes the media end, the media portal, the touch screen display and media turnstile. As the product evolved, SYNQ continued to uncover deeper and richer customer intelligence by coupling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sensors in all its products that were being designed and built. These enhanced shopper data points are easily understood in the SYNQ data visualization dashboard. With the click of a mouse it allows the retailer to quickly measure the impact in-store media experiences are having on customers and to adjust in real-time.
Why Did All Of This Happen?
Well, we saw that in the modern world of retail, organizations were struggling to finance quality loss prevention technologies, so we identified an opportunity to integrate media, data and merchandizing into one technology. With this innovation we enabled companies to more easily invest in our solution because it covered needs in Loss Prevention and marketing departments at the same time.
How Did It All Start?
It all began in 2015 with some regional grocery chains. The primary reason for this was that store management felt their grocery consumer base would perceive a level of retailer distrust through the installation of traditional looking EAS gates. Our response was a dual-purpose, industry-first Media Portal - EAS Gate, a 72” tall sleek attractively designed housing with two digital signs playing intriguing content for customers and asset protection for the store.
In early 2016 we met with Canadian Tire and rather than focus on EAS, the feedback from its Executive team was that we should be channelling more of our efforts on Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) and integrated media display product. It was at their request that we began to critically analyse the ability to integrate customer facing technologies within a security environment – this re-engineering at first seemed counter intuitive.
Since our inception, we have found it is the customers who direct the focus and innovation of our business. We always listen to feedback, and I would say that 50 percent of the products that we offer today are because a customer inspired us or gave us a problem to solve.
Is This Normal For Your Industry?
Probably not. Save-On-Foods is another customer that we have worked with to develop solutions which meet specific requirements, it’s refreshing to have such an open relationship with a client. We also have installs at other retailers like Country Grocer and Pharmasave in Victoria.
What Are The Key Benefits Of SYNQ?
SYNQ provides an experiential component, so we’re trying to take the clunky, static, loss prevention methodology out of the store and replace it with something that is customer facing and state-of-the-art. We also have the Loss Prevention component, solely aimed at reducing shrinkage and providing ROI via vertically integrated technology across unconventional signage and media. Lastly, our technology increases sales by stopping shrink while consequently increasing volume.
How Are You Unique?
We don’t have a direct competitor, although we have competitors within each vertical business we support. However, no one is doing this as a one-stop shop integrated solution. When we talk to prospects, we have to emphasize the ROI that is possible when you vertically integrate our technologies. What we find is that many companies just offer store analytics, they aren’t doing anything more than providing metrics which is a wasted utilization of hardware for traditional loss prevention.
What Type Of ROI Do You Provide?
Results wise, from a loss prevention perspective, we have reduced shrink in a major Canadian retailer by 50 percent using our technology, which in the grocery world is an astonishing number. On the SKU side of things, if you compare us to a non-media solution, our technology has resulted in a 3,000 percent increase in on-site sales at another customer.
Who Do You Talk To You In Retail?
Every customer is different, sometimes we will be talking to dealers which is often good for us as that dealer will be responsible for merchandizing, marketing, store design and Loss Prevention. When speaking to corporates it’s different as responsibilities are shared across the company, this is a more complicated sale as you have many stakeholders to satisfy. However, having said that, corporates are our most long-standing customers, so the time investment is worth it.
How Is Your Technology Evolving?
Our technology will continue becoming more customer focussed. For example, we will soon be launching our “Text for Help” campaign which will be vertically integrated within the store departments. The system is isolated for privacy and data collection, so participants receive and must opt-in via text message and consent to use the platform. Once the relationship is established, a client’s text-for-help is directed to the appropriate store department for response back which builds a social relationship between the customer and the store. Once the campaign is in full operation, we expect 40 percent of our customer base to sign up for the service.
Another innovation in the making will be utilizing touch screen media displays to enable customers to make in-store purchases for home delivery or, customized purchases for pick up at the point of sale. We will be introducing the McDonald’s fast food kiosk approach into various components of retail. For example, at the meat counter a customer will be able to order exactly what they want, as opposed to what’s available in sight, then pick it up later. We expect this service to go live in the next three months or so.
This technology will change the in-store journey of the consumer and potentially store design. Currently you might go to the meat counter first as you want to get your order generated, then you go shop dried grocery and diary finally swinging back to the deli. What we are doing is trying to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar and online retail.
Doesn’t This Innovation Require Additional Investment?
At SYNQ all our hardware comes fully loaded with advanced system features, so if somebody has installed our backbone, which perhaps could be running their CCTV, their investment would only be the additional equipment they desire. If a customer wanted additional touch screens, they will already have the backend to run it. All that’s needed is additional application software which will enable them to offer custom ordering for bulky items, steaks, seafood, salami or cheese off the Deli counter.
In many respects our technology will change the way retailers build Delis – saving the retailer fixturing money on refrigeration, display cases, signage etc. It’s essentially a fast food approach, we don’t cut your meat until your order it – click and collect. This approach reduces shrinkage and increases sales.
What About AI?
In terms of developing our technology, we will be looking at Artificial Intelligence to help us with real time metrics as our data quality improves. This revolves around having historical data to run queries on, which then enables us to make recommendations such as you’re running the wrong content, or pricing is too high. We also will be able to inform store managers of the performance of stores nearby which may be doing better, allowing them to review and change strategy accordingly.
A recommendation-based service reliant on hard data will only get smarter and smarter – that’s the end game for AI in the retail sector.
How About Data Privacy?
Data privacy and compliance are very important to us. We looked at the industry in general, and it was our assessment that things will change radically in the next few years. Therefore, we decided that we wanted to be at the forefront of protecting privacy in what many deem as an unregulated industry.
Many of the players within the industry today don’t have the correct infrastructure to support compliance, unless they’re going to completely re-write their methodologies and software. We believe many will just have to unplug, once the inevitable happens and privacy legislation comes into place.
Perhaps we won’t be able to collect as much data once this legislation is passed, but what we will be able to do is create algorithmic outputs which enable retailers to provide better products, better pricing, better merchandizing and better vendor relationships. In the future, retailers will be responsible for creating the interface between data, brands and individual customers.
About The Author
Nolan Wheeler is CEO of SYNQ.