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“Beacon technology can be used to create location-specific engagements” With Drew Trombley

Every consumer that walks into a retail space has a mobile device capable of enhancing time spent in a brick and mortar store and increases their likelihood of purchase. By leveraging the right mobile technology, retailers can create new ways to encourage customers to come into a physical retail space in ways that are uniquely […]

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Every consumer that walks into a retail space has a mobile device capable of enhancing time spent in a brick and mortar store and increases their likelihood of purchase. By leveraging the right mobile technology, retailers can create new ways to encourage customers to come into a physical retail space in ways that are uniquely on brand by tapping into the powerful devices in each of their pockets.

For example, beacon technology can be used to create location-specific engagements (“there’s a sale on Aisle 5”) based on individual footpaths. Augmented Reality can create new, fun ways to navigate a large retail space, or create interactive games for kids and adults as they browse products.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Drew Trombley, VP Growth, Rekall.

Drew Trombley is a proven business and growth operator. He discovered his love of data driven technology in ad tech and was part of three noteworthy acquisitions (Yahoo, Verizon, Snap). Prior to Rekall, Drew spearheaded development of the first sales team at the mobile development agency Fueled.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I took the first job out of college that allowed me to stay in Vermont — selling print ads for the Burlington Free Press / Gannett. At the time I had no idea that cold call print sales would lead me to a career in technology.

Despite early success, I knew the print industry was on the decline and the shift to digital was inevitable. My days in print, while brief, helped me gain an understanding of the fundamentals of advertising; a knowledge that had become my biggest asset, as digital media dynamics and terminology is just an extension of print.

I’ve carried 3 philosophies in my career: i) never stop learning ii) play to your strengths and iii) look around the corner for “what’s next”, and be in a position to capitalize on the change.

With this in mind, making the move from print advertising to ad tech, specifically the worlds of high-frequency, programmatic, data-driven advertising, was the path forward. Ad tech allowed me to build and grow my career in ways I never imagined, and I was lucky enough to experience 3 acquisitions that changed my life and the lives of many colleagues (Yahoo, Verizon, Snapchat).

After the Placed acquisition by Snapchat, I realized that “peak ad tech” had passed, and the opportunity ahead was making emerging technologies — like AI/ML, Blockchain, Augmented Reality — solve real problems for humans.

Today at Rekall I am lucky enough to be building cutting edge software for some of the most innovative companies in the world; Apple, Nike, Gucci, Orangetheory Fitness to name a few, and creating the “what’s next” in technology first hand.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

As mentioned, I was lucky enough to be part of three acquisitions, but the BrightRoll acquisition by Yahoo was by far the most unique experience of them all. When it was announced, it was a celebration for the people in the company, and not just its leadership. Tod Sacredoti built an organization that invested in its employees, and the acquisition changed the lives of everyone in the company. The BrightRoll alumni network you see today, with alum holding key positions at global leaders like Twitter, Postmates and Facebook, speaks volumes about the company Tod built.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I learned a crucial lesson on jet lag my first day in ad tech. I was flown to SF for a week-long onboarding at HQ, with Day 1 starting Monday morning at 9am (local time).

I’m an early riser on the east coast, and adding that to jet lag and Day 1 jitters, I found myself at 3am wide-awake. After a bit of a struggle I finally fell back asleep…only to wake up at 8:55am, 5 minutes before my Day 1 at HQ.

Sprinting down the streets of SF, I made it to the office, rushed into the room, and while catching my breath said “Hi, I’m the new guy!”. After a few light jokes taken on the chin (and lots of skepticism) I proceeded to give a sweaty, but well executed, presentation and reminded my new bosses exactly why they hired me.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Rekall is working on a few really exciting projects with number of large enterprises, but I’m personally excited most about some of our smaller projects aiming to disrupt both new and existing markets:

CoverUS is a startup based in Brooklyn that empowers patients to take ownership of their data and save costs on out of pocket healthcare costs. The pharmaceutical landscape today is confusing, expensive and intrusive to users. Companies like CoverUS are working to change this dynamic by bringing control back to patients.

OpenClear is a concierge COVID testing service that provides both on-demand testing for individuals at home with expedited results (12–24 hour turnaround), as well as an enterprise solution for re-entry to physical spaces like offices and schools. Rekall is working in parallel to develop healthtech software that gives oversight and management of the re-entry process to facility managers and senior leadership.

Rekall is working on a stealth project with a NYC hospitality veteran to provide customer intelligence and loyalty for high-end hospitality and nightlife providers. The platform sits atop popular POS systems and leverages customer data to provide (retail) businesses with actionable insights into customer preferences and behavior, and in turn enhance the end customer experience with more relevant and timely recommendations and improved loyalty.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Challenge yourself. Learn something new every day — not just work, but in life (music, cooking, art, sports — absorb it all).

Don’t take things too seriously.

Don’t be afraid to say “no”, but don’t shy away from responsibility. It’s a balancing act, but your body and mind will tell you when it’s time to step up, or step aside.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Lucas Krump, my direct manager at BrightRoll and Yahoo, took being a manager seriously. He didn’t use weekly 1:1s to simply check in on my work. He used them to figure out how he could help me become a better employee, but more importantly, become a better human.

He pushed me at times when I wanted to give up, and helped me build much of the confidence that I carry with me today. As a non-engineer in technology, it’s very easy to doubt oneself. Lucas challenged me. But at the same time he enabled me to take on more responsibility and gave me opportunities to showcase myself in meetings where managers would typically steal the show.

Lucas has fully embraced his strengths as a mentor and leader, and has since started a support program for men called Evryman (www.evryman.co). I feel blessed that I was able to not only benefit from Lucas’ natural ability to lead, but that I was able to help him in his realization that helping others along their path is his true passion.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

More than anything I try to pay it forward. I’ve had a number of people who have invested time and energy in me, and took time to help me grow as an individual. People doubt themselves constantly, especially those early in their careers. I take mentoring seriously, and embrace the opportunities to share my experience — and words of advice — to anyone that needs them. Encouragement goes a long way.

The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

  1. Omnichannel Investment

Consumers no longer engage brands in a single place. Mobile, desktop, and in store experiences must be aligned to provide one unique experience, regardless of channel. If a brand is going to have a world class website, then they need an equally cutting edge mobile, connected hardware and in-store technology experience as well.

While this isn’t necessarily a solution, it’s important to understand that a great omnichannel experience is now table stakes for retailers. Attention spans today are shorter than ever, and even the most unique retail experience can be ruined with one bad brand interaction.

2. Centralized Data Platform

A Centralized Data Platform is necessary to create personalization at every touch point, creating a truly personalized omnichannel experience between customers and brand regardless of where they choose to engage.

The best retailers are leveraging many vendors, for many different reasons — Mixpanel for analytics, Braze for mobile engagement, Leanplum for A|B Testing, etc.. But getting these vendors to all work together, while being able to quickly see top-down performance, is difficult and time consuming without centralizing the data.

By building an in-house Centralized Data Platform, retailers can identify trends and make optimizations faster than their competition, and provide a more personalized experience to each consumer and smarter loyalty to drive future purchases.

3. Mobile engagement in the physical space

Every consumer that walks into a retail space has a mobile device capable of enhancing time spent in a brick and mortar store and increases their likelihood of purchase. By leveraging the right mobile technology, retailers can create new ways to encourage customers to come into a physical retail space in ways that are uniquely on brand by tapping into the powerful devices in each of their pockets.

For example, beacon technology can be used to create location-specific engagements (“there’s a sale on Aisle 5”) based on individual footpaths. Augmented Reality can create new, fun ways to navigate a large retail space, or create interactive games for kids and adults as they browse products.

4. Differentiation by service

While eCommerce growth has commoditized much of retail, there are a few players that are thriving with a service-first, white glove approach. Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS) and concierge services like Bonobos, Fetch and even Best Buy’s Geek Squad all lead with a similar approach; understand an individual’s unique tastes, curate products or solutions that align with the individual consumer, and deliver a human-first interaction in the sale and post-sale experience.

But not all sales are made at the time of visit. A number of retailers have turned their brick and mortar locations into physical showrooms and leverage digital fulfillment with offline delivery to complete sales. The “try on at store”, but purchase at home and have the goods delivered will be how all high-touch retailers will all soon operate.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

Yes, malls and physical stores will continue to exist because we are social animals. While the number of malls and brick and mortar stores will decline, those that remain will become an experience, and not just a place to shop.

Rekall has had the pleasure to work with North America’s largest experiential retailer, American Dream, helping to build the future of retail firsthand. Located just outside of Manhattan, and centered in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, American Dream has created many reasons to visit; ride a rollercoaster, ski indoors, or pick up some new clothes at Hermes.

The consumer of today is a seasoned multi-tasker, with a very short attention span. Venues like American Dream, where entertainment and retail live together under one roof, will flourish as they have created many reasons to make an in-person visit.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

Successful retailers today must embrace what makes them unique, as well as the assets they have available. For most retailers this is data; data drives operational and organizational optimizations, customer personalization, and provides real-time feedback on what’s working and what is not.

Retailers must be agile — both with how they develop software/products, but also how they approach traditional retail norms. Things change fast, and those that succeed will embrace change and listen to what the market (and data) tells them is the best path forward.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Lower prices and an easier path to purchase have always been a threat to business.

Embracing smarter e-commerce and acquisition strategies is only part of the solution. In my opinion, retailers must have a complete and total understanding of why consumers buy their products, and lean into their differentiation more than ever.

If you make a premium household good, look to create ways to demonstrate the quality of goods. Offer experiential pop ups where consumers can touch and feel your products. Consumers understand cheaper usually means less durable, or lower quality, and customer reviews on an experience with your brand matter.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Replace UberEats / Seamless / GrubHub with a solution that actually brings NEW value to merchants, especially restaurants. The on-demand technology providers today are simply inserting a layer of technology into an already existing merchant <> customer relationship without providing any value, and bully merchants with over-the-top fees and abusive terms.

It may be a pie in the sky vision, but I would like to see restaurants and/or neighboring merchants be able to pool together to create a “co-op” platform to fight back. If a business is to pay fees for an on-demand service, they should be getting some sort of “new value” in return. Unfortunately, as it stands today the existing players are simply taking money out of the pockets of small business owners who are already facing enough adversity.

How can our readers further follow your work?

www.rekall.ai

Drew trombley LinkedIn

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us

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