Powa Technologies, a UK-based e-commerce startup that has raised nearly $100 million in outside funding in the last seven months, is today finally taking the wraps off its flagship product: PowaTag, an e-commerce app that combines elements of mobile payments, QR Codes and audio recognition to provide an all-in-one solution for brands and retailers to target customers in different physical and online environments and encourage them to buy products right then and there.
Powa tells me that it’s signed up some 240 brands to the product so far — including large retailers like French-based supermarket giant Carrefour and Universal Music. To coincide with the launch, the app is now live, but Dan Wagner — the CEO and founder, who is also a repeat entrepreneur in the e-commerce space — tells me commercial deployments will only be rolling out gradually over the next couple of months.
He says that can expect to see PowaTags appearing in magazines and newspapers and other printed matter; on websites; and in stores in the forms of small codes alongside displays of products. Over time, Powa also plans to add Beacons into retail locations and users will be able to, via Bluetooth LE, get alerts in stores for special details just as you pass them; and merchants will be alerted to what you like when you walk into the store.
The audio solution, meanwhile, will be a sound that the average person will not hear.
All of the tags and sounds will in turn trigger the PowaTag app to look up whatever product has been scanned. That will then lead a user through set of screens to let a user buy the product in question. The app will act as a kind of digital wallet at this point: storing payment details so that you do not need to enter them; or linking up with whatever payment solution a particular brand or retailer has chosen to use.
Mobile payments, up to today, have been full of a lot of hype and promise and often more empty when it comes to delivery.
Just last week, the much-lauded Square reportedly delayed an expected IPO indefinitely after finding that its revenue run-rate was not matching up with its valuation. It’s latest bid to make money looks like it will be Square Capital — a cash advance service.
Another solution, Google Wallet, has been described as a “money pit” because the hundreds of millions invested in the product have not been matched by consumer demand. Yet other services like iZettle (sometimes called the “Square of Europe”) have taken a slightly more low-key approach, choosing instead to partner with large banks and carriers to target merchants in different markets, rather than going it alone.
But even if some solutions have been more successful than others — PayPal and Amazon have both been gradually building up their position in point-of-sale payments, for example, building on their existing, hefty e-commerce strength — the wider space of mobile commerce has so many different kinds of product permutations and technologies in the mix that it’s hard to see what will end up as the core, most essential part of a mobile commerce success story (and if we even need one).
PowaTag is hoping that its all-in-one approach will help it circumvent all of the existing solutions and provide something that is not only attractive to merchants but useful to consumers. In a market where one of the biggest hurdles has been consumer engagement in these solutions — definitively answering the question of why we really need another way to pay for things — this is no small task. It’s at least a problem that PowaTag has grasped in its basic form. In a world of omni-commerce, “this is not really about using this in one place,” Wagner told me. “It’s about using a platform to transact.”