Can you imagine when all the great ideas for marketing and technology converge into a handful of networks, platforms and applications that make the consumer experience incredibly easy? While I’m skeptical that utopia is really possible in a capitalistic society, we seem to incrementally inching closer to that perhaps happening. While the last 10 years have been about startups and new ideas coming to market, I think the next 10 will be about those ideas consolidating together into fewer but more impactful services.
Take Salesforce.com‘s recent acquisitions. Radian6, JigSaw and DimDIm all joined the CRM platform in the last year, making it incredibly more robust and social all at once. Sure, there will always be competition sneaking in, innovating and doing something a little better or more compelling, but the successful companies in the technology and social spaces are either innovating or acquiring or both. And that’s good for users like us.
One innovation I’ve been waiting for is the consumer inbox. We all need a place where business and commerce happen that doesn’t interfere with or interrupt out personal communications. While some of us got smart as email marketers became more prevalent and set up an email account for junk so it never crossed paths with our family and friends messages, now many of us actually have a spam or junk free inbox on any of our emails?
Add to the email newsletters and daily deals the social messaging that has a commercial bend and our inbound life is just a digital version of Time Square … hopefully without the hookers and crack heads.
But where there’s a need, there’s a startup, right?
RedEApp launched last week. It’s a Louisville-based startup that has the idea of a consumer inbox in mind. The concept is for businesses to offer customer communications through the application, so the business never knows your email or phone number. The business offers you privacy and a singular inbox to receive their notifications, coupons, newsletters and more. The more businesses that offer the service, the more consolidated your inbox becomes.
Let’s say you’re a restaurant. You offer the RedEApp to customers. They control how the app notifies them, if at all. When they’re ready to go dining, they log in and see if you have sent out specials or coupons in the last few days. They can see your weekly newsletter, daily deal coupon or even announcements about menu changes or events because the customer has opted in to all your messaging. Certainly, if the customer is interested, they can also tell the app to notify them via text, social network or email instantly if their favorite business posts something.
The point is that the customer has control. They don’t have to surrender their phone number or email address or even have to log on to a social network to have a conversation with a company. If a business sends too many messages to them, they can opt out or just ignore them more easily because they come to their “when I want to talk to businesses” app rather than their inbox.
But RedEApp isn’t just a gimicky app, either. CEO Jonathan Erwin told me they are busy integrating and working with point-of-sale and customer relationship management software to really bring utility to the customer experience for app users. The example he used was a dry cleaner that, instead of telling customers the clothes would be ready by 6 p.m. tomorrow, could instantly notify the customer their clothes were ready as the ticket was scanned and racked upon completion. The application essentially makes point-of-sale systems real-time notification engines. Very cool.
The application currently comes in iPhone and Android formats. Businesses can sign on for a fairly reasonable rate (thought to be around $50 per month per location) and start empowering their customers with a new, privacy-driven consumer inbox.
The challenge that lies ahead for RedEApp is a mighty one. Businesses are going to have to be convinced they’re doing right by their customers and that action outweighs their want or need to have direct access to customer contact information. For businesses like dry cleaners that can benefit from a real-time tie-in with their existing systems, that might happen easily. For others, it might not.
Another problem area is getting customers to adopt it. By approaching businesses first, you”re relying on the business to educate the customer. But if you sell the application to customers and their favorite businesses aren’t using RedEApp, it’s useless.
But when I think about the possibility that we might one day have a consumer inbox that allows us to interact with brands and companies on our terms and not theirs, I get kind of excited. Here’s hoping RedEApp catches on.
What do you think? Do they have a significant challenge getting into businesses or getting through to customers? The comments are yours.