SalesTechStar Interview with Gregg Aamoth, CEO of POPcodes

Gregg Aamoth, CEO of POPcodes chats about the digital trends transforming today’s retail experiences:



Welcome to this SalesTechStar chat Gregg, tell us about yourself and your role at POPCodes, we’d love to hear about the platform and its journey…

I have over 25 years of experience in helping large retail and financial services providers maximize ROI from their people, processes, technology, and data – both as an internal champion and as a strategic consultant.

POPcodes was founded in 2014, shortly after I left Macy’s, where I was responsible for Omnichannel Customer Data and Marketing Systems used by Macy’s and Bloomingdales retail brands and the private label credit card business.

At Macy’s, we leveraged our extensive customer data to create highly personalized and narrowly targeted omnichannel campaigns and complex loyalty programs. We consistently saw the most friction in their execution and measurement at the in-store point of purchase. Customers didn’t read the fine-print of when and where discounts or points could and couldn’t be used, keeping associates well informed about the programs was a challenge, and our POS systems were often not able to keep up with the marketing and loyalty team’s creative ideas.  It was especially frustrating because most of these issues didn’t exist or could be more easily avoided when the customer shopped online.

Glenn Yuen, POPcodes’ co-founder, and I realized that smart, internet connected payment terminals could do much more than “just” process credit and debit transactions. There was untapped potential to utilize payment terminals for rich, data-enabled value-added services to solve both B2B and B2C challenges.

From a B2C perspective, these devices can enable seamless, omnichannel experiences that are very difficult to do with most POS solutions, including multi-party promotions, loyalty points redemption, and secure in-store pickup of online or mobile purchases. From a B2B perspective, they can be a powerful “direct to merchant” communication channel to engage and inform store management and staff about new promotions, payment options, and products and services that they could use to drive more traffic to their stores – or get the funding they need to keep the doors open.

Since payment processors control the distribution of software to the payment device and their need to improve merchant engagement, reduce deployment and support costs, and increase value-added solution and services sales is so great, our current focus is on the B2B side.

As we help processors solve their merchant engagement challenges and grow from being on 10’s of thousands to 100’s of thousands of merchants’ counters, we’re laying the foundation for some never before possible B2C experiences.

What do you feel retailers need to do more of to drive in-store experiences in tandem with digital experiences? 

Retailers should look for opportunities to continuously expand and simplify their ‘omnichannel’ capabilities – and ensure that the experience is a positive one for customers and for their in-store associates as well.

For example, manufacturers and merchants send millions of promotion codes to consumers that can be quickly applied (or systemically denied) before a transaction on almost every e-com enabled website. But those same promo codes, and the benefits they bring to both the merchant and consumer, don’t transfer to most in-store experiences.

Customers often have to bring a printed coupon or convince a store associate to accept a promotion that they’ve received digitally. This dramatically increases tension and friction between the customer who simply wants to benefit from the offer they’ve received and the associate that is responsible for keeping both the customer and their management happy.

Merchants’ challenge is to ensure that customers can seamlessly learn about, shop and pay for, and receive the products and services while in-store, on the road, or at home. When customers come in-store, can they easily pay with a card from their physical or digital wallet, watch, or with their loyalty points?  The answer, for the vast majority of merchants, depends on their POS and payment solutions and service provider.

As such, merchant service providers must ensure that the solutions they provide are helping merchants achieve those goals. Are they easy to set up and use. Do they guide managers and associates through training and help them avoid having to call for support? Are they secure and easy to enhance?  Do they help keep merchants informed about new features or help reduce their stress by validating promotions and confirming that mobile and online orders are picked up by the right customers.

Merchant service providers and retailers that embrace smart terminals are quickly realizing that these devices can be used to solve both sides of this challenge.

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How can smart terminals drive more point of sales experiences: what newer tech (AR etc) have you been seeing change the game for terminals at the point of checkout?

Similar to the revolution that we’ve seen with smart-phones over the past 15 years, internet connected smart terminals promise to be a massive game-changer for brick-and-mortar merchants, their customers, and in-store associates. They are making payments easier but also offering a range of value-added services that improve customer experience and drive sales.

Like smartphones they are extremely secure and yet simple to use; often with large, color touchscreens. They are typically more portable and have more connection options; both for getting online and to a wide range of Point-of-Sale systems and other in-store technology.

They can also do much more than just accept credit & debit payments. They can be used as a timeclock, for merchant and customer surveys, enable in-store promotions, collect marketing opt-ins, enroll in buy-now-pay-later, download mobile apps, redeem loyalty points and more!

Unlike smartphones, however, where their use for making phone calls becomes less and less important, I believe that accepting payments will continue to be their primary purpose.

Why in your view will self-checkout become the next big thing or one of the next big things in retail?

While there’s lots to love – and loath – about self-checkout experiences today, it definitely has the potential to change the way stores operate and customers shop and pay. As merchants consider enabling more seamless in-person experiences, they should consider the lessons learned from the years of exuberance around and recent demise of Amazon Go.

The concept of allowing customers to grab their goods and “just walk out” sounds awesome, but there are a lot of constraints and considerations to make before it’s put into practice.  Millions per store were spent installing and operating the video tracking, shelf-monitoring and entry/exit control technology behind Amazon Go’s locations. This was after the locations were built from the ground-up or massively renovated with this experience in mind.  And, while some customers loved the experience, forcing all customers into a DIY shopping experience all the time alienated many.

Merchants should look for solutions that give their tech-savvy, time-starved and interaction-adverse customers options to shop, pay and pick-up with the least friction, cost and risk. For many, this could be as simple as making sure their websites are mobile friendly and have an accurate view of in-store inventory.  They can start small, with special assortments of products and a section of their store specifically for the “grab and go” experience. Or, they could leverage their smart payment terminal to generate a receipt for the products that customers purchased online or in-store via their mobile phone.

Read More: The Secret Key to B2B Marketplace Growth

What are some thoughts you have in mind regards to the future of retail tech?   

Predicting which new retail tech will be a hit or a flop has always been tough and is tightly linked to consumer’s technology adoption trends. For example, we experimented extensively with QR codes and acceptance of mobile payments at Macy’s 15 years ago, and consumers’ use of both was a major disappointment. It was simply too early. The effort required by the customer to set up their phones was too great. Today, with mobile wallet ready phones and QR code reading software being part of the camera app, it’s a totally different experience.

As the cost of large, high-quality, touch-enabled display screens goes down and the power of the tech in our pockets and on our wrists goes up, I think the “phygital” experiences, with a hybrid of in-person and online shopping experiences will increase.

Imagine being able to choose from exclusive, locally crafted items displayed on the shelf and mass-produced products on a virtual ‘shelf’ at the same time. Getting fitted for the suit in-store but ordering the exact fabric, color and pattern – with matching socks – online.  Buying a movie and dinner package online, and then simply tapping your phone to the payment device when at the restaurant and theater to enjoy the experience.

Customer data will also play an increasingly important role in shaping the future of retail and payments technology. Retailers that can effectively collect and analyze customer data, with their consent of course, will have a significant advantage in delivering a personalized and seamless shopping experience.

I think the smart terminal will play a role in this; obtaining customers’ permission, facilitating data collection, and with the help of machine learning (ML) algorithms, engaging consumers with tailored promotions, personalized recommendations, and targeted marketing campaigns.

Can you highlight more on the impact of AI in this market?

Retailers who collect and maintain years of purchase and promotional data will be well positioned to take advantage of increasingly powerful AI. Used correctly, it could have a significant impact on the retail market and point of sales experience by enabling retailers to offer more personalized, pro-active, and efficient service to customers. AI and ML powered processes have the potential to help retailers gain better insights into customer behavior and preferences, optimize inventory management and assist with providing real-time support to customers, enhancing their shopping experience. Used incorrectly or inappropriately, to the point where it’s overly intrusive or ‘creepy’, there could be a major backlash from consumers on the use of AI/ML.

POPcodes is a platform that enables content and workflow delivery to smart terminal estates through a payment terminal app.

Gregg is a recognized expert in omnichannel, data-driven marketing and customer data management. He has over 25 years of experience helping large retail and financial services providers maximize ROI from their people, processes, technology, and data – both as an internal champion and as a strategic consultant.

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