Shivani Gopal's new loyalty startup rewards customers with shares, over points

Shivani Gopal’s new loyalty startup rewards customers with shares, over points

Fintech UpStreet is determined to put consumers and retailers on “the same playing field”, with an app rewarding customer loyalty with shares, rather than points.

The startup’s co-founder and chief executive is Shivani Gopal (pictured), also founder of The Remarkable Woman.

She says the aim of the new UpStreet app that she’ll be demonstrating at The Antler Demo Day in Sydney today, is to “turn a customer into an owner by rewarding them with shares as they shop”.

“In retail today, most brands are largely undifferentiated,” Shivani says.

“Everyone has their own loyalty programs. The only way you differentiate yourself is to make your customers feel like an owner of your store.

“They will disregard all the competition and go straight to you.”

Shivani adds that the idea has been “selling itself”, thanks to the success of a similar product in the US, which offer the startup proof-of-concept as it pitches to retailers across Australia.

Shivani worked with co-founder and chief technician Ermin Nurovic to build the solution.

Together with a third co-founder and chief operator Christian Eckelmann, the three are looking to change the way Australians earn money.

“All three of us are really intrinsically motivated to help build the wealth of the everyday Australian and to do it in a really fun way,” Shivani says.

Deconstructing the problem

Customers want to receive discounts and rewards for their loyalty, Shivani says, yet at the same time, they are not motivated to use said discounts.

The often-cumbersome processes to save a few cents also puts people off, she says, and “customers also couldn’t be bothered to go through the high friction and time-consuming nature of having to follow cookies and actually get a discount”.

“They wanted something that was going to be seamless,” Shivani says.

“At the end of the day, we are all time-poor.”

On the other hand, discounts were not only creating “greater price sensitivity”, but also didn’t help retailers develop a true sense of customer loyalty, Shivani says.

“We hypothesised about different ways we can do it, and we landed on, ‘the rewards should be shares’,” she says.

The three co-founders theorised this would incentivise shoppers to return to the same stores.

The idea is to allow customers to watch their own wealth, or shares, grow as they shop.

And in the process, “actually creating a meaningful interest in those brands,” she adds.

Retailing to retailers

Although they are already piloting the first iterations of the app with an undisclosed number of testers, the three co-founders are holding off launching until early-to-mid next year, giving them time to onboard more retailers, so they can “come out with a bang”.

But pitching a product to big retailers comes with its own challenges.

“From the consumer side, we didn’t have to spend very much to get them interested. From a retail side, it’s really who you know,” Shivani says.

Trawling through LinkedIn and reaching out to connections who knew someone within the retail industry was the team’s first step.

Some retailers were quick to sign up, while others, Shivani says, took three separate meetings, moving up the chain of command, to even get the ball rolling.

Helping her case was the success of an American app similar to UpStreet, which has joined forces with retail behemoths such as Walmart, McDonald’s and Amazon.

And while these are some huge names, Shivani hopes, Down Under, stores of all sizes will join the program.

This is an edited version of a piece that originally appeared on StartupSmart. TheAntler Demo Day 2019 will take over Sydney Town Hall on Thursday, November 7, 2019.

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