AdvanTag is changing the face of customer loyalty by offering hassle-free creative rewards and instant prize redemption to customers in return for their store visits, purchases, and social media engagement. It is a platform helping businesses engage with their customers using a simple “if, then” philosophy. For example: a businesses can say “if a customer visits my store three times, then I want to give a 20% discount voucher”, or “if a customer likes my Facebook page, then he/she receives a $5 gift voucher”, etc. AdvanTag helps businesses boost their engagement and increase repeat purchases through a compelling loyalty solution.
We chatted with cofounder, Mo Shahin, about AdvanTag and what the future holds for the venture. Here is what he had to say!
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR COMPANY?
The initial idea for AdvanTag came from the simple desire to help small businesses in the retail space grow by providing them the tools they need at an affordable price. During the course of developing AdvanTag, this idea evolved into a mobile app focused on helping retail businesses provide loyalty benefits to existing customers, and of course attract new ones. An example is this year’s LiON’S LAIR winner, Ranggo – a tool for restaurants to collect feedback and promote their menus, that also helps patrons find the best local dishes and save money.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS?
Waking up in the morning and working on something that you have passion for is the best part of being an entrepreneur. As CTO of AdvanTag, my main responsibility is technology. However, being a cofounder as well requires that I go beyond that. I get to work in sales, operations, marketing, businesses development and much more and that is such a rewarding experience.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART?
Although many entrepreneurs say that finding your first customer is the most challenging, we’ve found that growing and scaling the business has taken the most work on our part.
HOW DO YOU MEASURE SUCCESS?
We set short and long-terms milestone that define our success. All milestones have one main goal, which is to increase sales. On a daily basis, I measure success by the amount of tangible work that I can produce that reflects on the milestones that I’m heading towards.
WHAT IS THE BEST RECOGNITION YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
We were selected as one of the top finalists at the MIT EF Business Plan Competition out of 4,500 applications in 2012. We also received an honorable mention award at the Global Innovation Through Science and Technology (GIST) summit that took place in Malaysia in 2013. More recently, we were invited to participate at the 2013 Web Summit in Dublin as one of the hardest working startups.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE NEXT YEAR AND BEYOND?
AdvanTag aims to disrupt the group buying and loyalty market space. Growth is what matters; we want to see AdvanTag in the hands of every small retail business as well as in the hands of consumers. We know that by increasing the retention rate by only 5%, we can increase their profits by at least 25%.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS OR STUDENTS STUDYING TO PURSUE A CAREER IN YOUR FIELD?
Starting up a business is very challenging and requires lots of work and dedication. You need to have passion for what you are doing to keep going. Thinking that you can do everything yourself is a huge mistake, and I advise you to find the right business partners. The team is what makes a success, so make sure to have cofounders who complement your skills. And finally, define your success milestones and focus on reaching them.
WHAT DIFFERENTIATES YOU FROM YOUR COMPETITION?
The flexibility in our platform to meet the needs of any merchant with virtually no changes to code. Whatever kind of loyalty campaign you think of, we can have it ready in minutes. In fact, we built the platform specifically for the retail space and we had clients using it for events and engagements due to the flexibility of its setup.
WHY IS HAMILTON THE HOME FOR YOUR COMPANY?
The McMaster Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program was one of the early supporters for AdvanTag when it was just an idea. We were also offered an incubation space at the Don Pether Incubator at McMaster Innovation Park. Hamilton is a great place to start a business, there is lots of support from the community and Innovation Factory is such a great support system.
HOW CAN WE CONNECT WITH YOU?