Rob Murdoch is no stranger to the Channel, after co-building a hosted telephony business and then exiting via a Broadsoft acquisition in 2013 you could say he was ahead of the curve. Now he’s back with his next venture, Forgesp, a digital analytics based platform he is selling into the events and retail space. David Dungay, Editor of Comms Business, spoke to Rob to see how the Channel can benefit from this new proposition.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): Rob, tell us a bit more about your new venture, what do you do?
Rob Murdoch (RM): I’m not sure you can call it ‘new’ anymore! We are about three and a half years into the business now and we have clients all over the world. Forge delivers sophisticated footfall analytics to the events and retail industries. We use advanced sensors to detect visitors via WiFi beacons. This raw data is then sent to our cloud platform for analysis which then builds a picture of visitor movements and even what kind of mood they’re in.
In the beginning we took our time to prove the concept before we went out to people. Then, last year we spoke to a few IT network companies that work with big exhibitions. We have a few of those guys on board now and they are reselling it. However, that’s quite a small niche market so we are now looking beyond that space to see where we can add value. As we have a retail play, and given my history, the telecoms space is the natural next step.
CBM: What kind of customers do you have and what sort of questions are you answering for them?
RM: We have some incredible customers, sometimes I can’t believe it. We are working with number of big names like Facebook and Google, and many more, on the events side and then big brands like Lacoste on the retail element. The questions all these people need answered are how many people are coming past their shop/ stand, how long are people stopping by for, which routes are they taking to get there, are they engaged whilst they are there, which part of the store are they most attracted to… basically, is the marketing converting customers into sales? These are all high value questions which we can answer with our technology.
We recently did some work for a customer who was exhibiting at a show in Napa Valley. They were getting about 18,000 people to the stand but they didn’t think enough people were going to the shop and purchasing goods. Our solution confirmed this and through mapping the hot zones and flow paths they were able to optimise their layout so more people would visit the shop. As a result their revenues went up and people were moving more effectively around their store.
CBM: Is this really a Channel play?
RM: I think more for the retail space yes. Telecoms is just a commodity sell now, its cut throat and incredibly competitive. Partners struggle to differentiate themselves and it is solutions like this one which give them that opportunity. This is a brilliant add on for them as many of them will have a strong presence in the retail space. If they don’t, it’s a great way to get into them with something different.
It’s also easy to set up. It’s just like putting a WiFi network in, the sensors are easy to deploy and calibrate and one sensor can cover an area as small as 3m2 up to 250m2. Within this engaged area we pick up the signal on the smartphone the visitors are carrying and through our cameras we can tell their age, gender, and even what kind of mood they are in when they are looking at things.
We recently did some work for Phillips and they wanted to know the number of people looking at their display that had beards! It’s all really useful information for the marketing department of any business. That’s what every marketing person wants to know…’how effective is my marketing campaign.’ Traditionally you wouldn’t be able to tell if your shop display was effective or not… we can.
CBM: So what is the hook for the Channel?
RM: This is a big differentiator for them for starters. It enables them to create stronger relationships with their customers by selling in something different. It also allows partners to tap into a different budget, this will be paid for by the marketing budget and not the usual IT/ comms budget.
That is really significant for partners that are all battling for the same money.
Not all partners are going to understand the proposition or opportunity but I think we have something truly unique for the Channel.