Startup plans to combine gamification with the SoLoMo movement with shopping app
Prototype, which aids shoppers in finding deals in malls, to be completed in May
THE convergence of people, information, services, things and places on mobile devices has led to a fair number of startups seeking to exploit this over the last few years.
This year has already been dubbed ‘the year of SoLoMo’ – the term stands for social, location and mobile – and the movement has caught the interest of investors, companies and marketers with its promise of a seamless personalized experience curated by brands and merchants based on location.
A duo from Malaysia plans to stake their claim in this growing space, by adding another ingredient into the SoLoMo mix.
In an interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), co-founder Sze Jun King (pic), said that right now, shoppers are not aware of the many discounts available at most retail stores, especially in a large mall.
“A shopper today is overexposed with so much marketing that a shopper today has ‘filtered’ them away from their minds,” he added.
“That’s the problem I’m solving, helping fickle shoppers decide where to go and what to do when they visit a shopping mall by providing discounts and promotions as a guide on a mobile app.”
Enter Ser-Savealot, a mobile app that shows the shopper available discounts and other promotions in any mall, with gamification elements to make the shopping and discovery experience more exciting.
Navigating the castle
The origin of Ser-Savealot began as a thought exercise posed by Sze to co-founder Charles Wong (pic) at a café they met at for lunch.
He first asked Wong to see if anything caught his attention during his journey to the counter to order and back to the table.
Wong reported not spotting anything until Sze pointed out a standee on each table indicating a ‘Buy 1 Free 1’ promotion for coffee. Signs that went unnoticed by Wong.
“This shows that traditional table standees are no longer working and other traditional point sales may no longer work. Right now, the time is right as smartphones have become very personal that users are more glued to a small screen than anything else in real life,” Sze said.
According to him, the main objective of Ser-Savealot is to help mobile shoppers to shop smartly by helping them decide when they are at a mall.
The shopper will enjoy a better experience from discovering new places using the app to compare deals or promotions. And the time saved through the app will enable users to spend better quality time with their families and friends.
Staking out the castle
In the course of researching the viability of their idea, Sze shared that are various apps in the market that is just a mall directory, but limited only to just one mall.
“Those apps hardly promote the retailers within the mall and contain outdated information. Shoppers can’t have too many apps for each mall, as there are hundreds of malls in Malaysia,” he added.
With the impending enforcement of the Personal Data Protection Act, businesses must now practice more caution when soliciting promotions with users.
“So we hope that Ser-Savealot can be an alternative tool for retailers to adopt a new form of opt-in push marketing by the shoppers that will be based on the location of the shopper, so information to them is more relevant and acceptable,” he added.
When asked about similar existing apps such as Pirq Malaysia and locally developed Baucar by 1337 Tech which also offer access to location-based promotions, Sze admitted that they do swim in the same space but insists that Ser-Savealot contains a “secret sauce” which will distinguish itself from the pack though he declined to share more detail.
In addition, he pointed out that the of downloads of apps similar to Ser-Savealot is less than 20,000 downloads. “So there’re plenty of Malaysians out there without a good location based app,” he said.
A vital component to any great location-based app, is the amount of relevant and accurate information available for programs and algorithms to work with. To close that gap, Sze said the team has spent many man-hours compiling data of businesses within malls and matching discount and promotional information.
“This is a painstaking job and has to be completed manually. It is currently 80% complete and once finished, it will be easier from here on as it only requires updating,” he said, adding there are currently nearly 300 malls in Malaysia alone.
The key differentiator for Ser-Savealot, Sze believes, will be the inclusion of gamification elements within the app, to make it more exciting and interesting for the shoppers in order to engage and retain shoppers.
“The platform is going to be built from scratch and will incorporate some mini games for shoppers to play, but will require user to spend more time or share information from the app on social networks to earn tokens to play these mini games,” Sze added.
The biggest challenge for the team was the design and inclusion of gamified elements into the app that will make it interesting to use it not just at the beginning, but also in the long run.
“A lot of research was done on gamification to understand what makes the casual player get hooked on a game, and thus a lot of games were played to help further this cause!” Sze quipped.
Conquering the castle
Ser-Savealot is currently fully self-funded with 100% equity held by both Sze and Wong.
Sze sold PC and video games to major retailers and cyber cafes for 10 years before venturing into the e-commerce space two years ago. He is currently a marketing manager for a wholesale business-to-business website.
Wong is the founder of AStar Technology, a social media and mobile marketing agency established in 2010 and is also the Principal Consultant for the Social Media Freedom Center.
Both are avid gamers and sportsmen with Sze a runner and Wong a martial arts enthusiast. Sze shared that his source of motivation comes from his running, reminding himself only he can finish the race and that he must.
“If you have noticed, many runners are extremely self-motivated because it’s both a process and a goal that is achieved,” he added.
Wong’s motivation comes from seeing how technology and social media can help people reach out and connect to one another in ways that are faster, simpler and more fun.
The duo are now working on a prototype of Ser-Savealot, which is due to be completed in late May of this year.
“Once the app has been tested, we are confident that promoting the app on social media channels as well as ads on Google will bring in the users we need. Once it hits a threshold number of active users, we plan to monetize it probably by the end of the year,” said Sze.
Once the app hits the threshold number of users, the duo also plan to expand the team that will roam the malls constantly to keep information, up to date and to be able to add new retail outlets outside of malls in the app.
“We intend to have non-shopping mall retailers to be included but we require that they offer promotions for at least six months to a year,” he added.
In the interim, they will also be pitching their idea at the upcoming the Echelon Malaysia Satellite event, taking place in Kuala Lumpur on April 17, to a roomful of fellow entrepreneurs and investors.
There, Sze hopes Ser-Savealot would pique the interest of potential partners and investors – to get the ball rolling and taking the dream that much closer to reality.
“We’re hoping it will be our stepping stone into the international startup scene,” he added.
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