Vincent Berge’s company Think & Go is changing the way we shop, pay and market products. We talk to the founder about the connected screens revolution and how they are set to overhaul the future of retail.
Vincent Berge founded Think & Go NFC in 2010 on a belief that near-field technology (NFC) could transform commerce.
It took Vincent’s team of brilliant young engineers three years of research and development to create patented technology that enables digital displays to interact with connected objects such as smartphones or travel passes.
Ingenico acquired Think & Go in April 2016. Fusing Ingenico’s contactless payment capabilities with Think & Go’s connected screens has created an entirely new sales channel – screen commerce. Today, more than 300 screens have been installed, throughout Europe and Asia.
To date, more than 50,000 people have already used the screens, generating 300,000 interactions and 36,000 payment transactions. Backed by Ingenico’s global network and R&D capabilities, Think & Go aims to deploy 3,000 screens worldwide by mid-2019.
Vincent, the CEO of Think & Go, spoke to us about the business rationale behind connected screens and the outlook for the company.
Have retailers not already attempted to use touchscreens?
People have tried utilizing touchscreens in the past, but the concept didn't work because only one person could use the screen at a time. Our screens are different – they allow multiple people to use them at once and it takes less than a second to collect a token. It's not a one-to-one interface, it's one-to-many.
Who are your main customers?
The screens have been primarily deployed in shopping malls, where people can collect tokens using whatever connected object they have at hand.
We sold 25 screens to Indonesian telecom operator Telkomsel, who use them to provide services to their subscribers. Telkomsel subscribers are given an NFC sticker to put on their phone – it can be any kind of phone; it doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive handset. The sticker is linked to their mobile account. They can wave their phone in front of the screen to collect coupons or buy products, all of which they can access from their phone.
Why is this a big deal?
E-commerce works through web and mobile, while conventional shops are bricks-and-mortar – our screens merge the two. It’s a new way of conducting commerce – people can buy something on impulse in a way they didn’t previously know was possible.
For the merchant, the screens are an extension of bricks-and-mortar stores, enabling them to engage people outside the retail outlet – it's a whole new revenue stream. It’s going to add revenues to mobile as well as bricks-and-mortar stores, and also generate entirely new revenue streams.
Our company was founded on the prediction that there were going to be more and more connected objects in people’s pockets. Now we want to transform people’s perception of screens to make it easier for consumers to get information directly from them.
How does the conversion rate compare with other channels such as mobile or web?
Our field tests shows that 21% of people walking past a screen will end up interacting with it, such as collecting a coupon.
If you compare that to mobile or web, only two in 1,000, or 0.2% of people who actually click on an advert, will then interact further with the advertiser. Our screens’ attraction rate is 100 times higher.
In terms of the conversion rate for driving users to stores (i.e. downloading coupons on screens and redeeming them in stores), our performance is even better. We’ve measured a 35% average conversion rate with a field test at our screens installed in the Italie 2 Mall in Paris.
Are there any major obstacles or deterrents to consumers using this technology?
Often consumers only think of using smartphones with connected screens, but you can also use a company access card, travel pass, bank card, hotel key etc. – all these objects can be NFC objects.
When we started introducing the screens to the public, we hired guides to explain how they worked. However, we soon realized we didn’t need them because people were using them without any help. That's the beauty of what we have – if you have a screen that says "put your travel pass here and win €10", people will do it on their own, no questions asked.
Why do you think connected screens are an inescapable e-commerce or m-commerce trend?
More than ever, we’re buying things on impulse. The question for commerce overall is: How do we serve impulse buying? People only think about mobile. You can now get notifications via SMS and other alerts so there are more and more opportunities that come directly to your phone. The problem is we now receive too many – Groupon and other services get drowned out.
However, our screens are location-based marketing and service-based marketing.
What other locations or industries could use your screens?
Think about the number of places you see screens – they can be anywhere, for example, at the entrance to a large company’s office building. All the employees who work for that company have an access card in their pocket. They could either pick up services for that day, or if they buy something, they don’t even need to use their payment card – their access card can be linked to their account, and then the amount can be automatically deducted from their salary at the end of the month.
Any business that already uses screens has an opportunity to realize the potential of the technology, transforming these displays from passive screens into service screens. When I look at the market, I see corporate, I see retail, I see malls, I see transport.
You sell the screens currently; could you change your business model?
We sell the screens and the operating platform to provide services. We sell the hardware, the software and the services. We provide support and licensing on a monthly basis.
As a startup, you need to finance building the hardware. You can't just have a retainer and a royalty fee paid later. You need to fund the screen. Today, we have a very basic business model – if you want screens, we sell you screens. If you want services, we sell you services. However, tomorrow, there will be a lot more options available. For example, if you want 10 screens, we will supply 10 screens, however instead of paying for the screens using the current payment model, we could offer to take a percentage or a fee on every transaction made or coupon collected using the technology.
Every time a consumer interacts with a screen, we collect the cookies and other information. We know you and your shopping habits. All this data could be monetized. We’re not at that stage yet… this is just at the start of the story.
In 2010, Vincent founded ThinkandGo NFC and invented a breakthrough technology – the connected screen – combining Digital Signage with contactless technology to engage shoppers on the screen in less than 1 sec.
In 2016, after 2 patents and 26 international awards, Ingenico Group - the global leader of payment solutions - acquired T&G to speed up mass deployment of Screen-Commerce. Vincent Berge still holds the CEO position of the company based in France and Singapore.