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Mobile

C2B app Urge brings instant messaging to business

Technology has changed the rules for how we shop online, and in physical stores as well. The growth of internet retail has changed consumers. It’s always available, so shoppers don’t have to wait until business hours to purchase or make inquiries. They’re always “first in the queue”, never having to wait to checkout. 56 per cent of consumers under 35 interact with their favourite brands on Facebook, giving feedback and getting responses. Half of shoppers use their mobiles to research products and prices.

A Sydney-based hairdresser has many high-end clients, including celebrities, whose time is particularly precious. They’re one of the traditional retail businesses trying to deliver the seamless experience that consumers get online.

“We find that our customers are increasingly judging the experience on more than just their colour or blow dry,” says the owner. “A particular issue is booking and changing appointments. Clients don’t want to be endlessly on the phone.”

This hairdresser chose to partner with Urge, a Whatsapp-style messaging app specifically for businesses. It makes it easy for people to search for their favourite salon, restaurant or retailer, and text them any time of day or night. Research shows that apps are becoming the main way for consumers to find businesses, particularly when searching locally. In one US study, 94 per cent of respondents had used their smartphone to look for local information, with 90 per cent of those taking action as a result.

Communicate with businesses directly

Urge was founded by Australian entrepreneurs Daniel Reyes, Dean Steingold and Doron Ostrin in January 2016. Over the past couple of months, they’ve signed up more than 50 businesses ranging from salons to food outlets and clothing stores and currently have a waiting list of businesses wanting to join the Urge directory.

“Consumers are used to using apps like Whatsapp and iMessage to contact one another. What we do is create the same easy, responsive communication between consumers and business,” Steingold explains.

Urge is also planning to offer payments through the app, as well as a rewards program to ensure that repeat customers are rewarded for their loyalty. According to NoKadi research, 55 per cent of consumers would be happy to sign up for new loyalty programs so long as they don’t have to carry more plastic cards.

“As consumers have begun to embrace cashless payment via services like Uber, the expectation is growing for businesses, both online and offline to offer a similar, frictionless checkout experience,” Ostrin says.

Paul Greenberg, CEO of industry body NORA, is on Urge’s advisory board. Greenberg says that he finds it “very frustrating” and often difficult to make quick contact with a retailer in real time.

“I don’t want to phone. In truth, phone calls are often a waste of time and messaging would be easier, Urge has successfully met a consumer-to-business niche that other B2B or social media services have missed.”

“I am an active cheerleader and supporter for any technology that helps grow the retail pie by providing deeply customer-centric solutions. Urge is, without doubt, one such solution,” he says.

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