Alain Falys, co-founder and chairman of Yoyo Wallet, a mobile payment and loyalty marketing platform in Europe, talks about how the company was founded, the things he learnt from establishing Yoyo Wallet, and its business model
Yoyo Wallet (Yoyo) claims to be the largest multi-retailer mobile wallet in Europe. It combines mobile payment solutions with an instant personalised loyalty and rewards programme for high street retailers, universities and corporations that are backed by an analytics and campaign measurement platform.
It allows users to enjoy secure mobile payment, automated loyalty and digital receipt collection whilst also receiving personalised offers of what to buy as well as other functions such as pre-ordering. It leverages technology to not only enhance the consumers in-store experience but more importantly is focused on enabling retailers to use analytics to grow their businesses.
“Our customers are retailers. The payment aspect of our proposition is really not the main product, the main product is a mobile-first marketing platform for retailers. We use the payment transaction through the mobile to create a very different experience particularly in brick-and-mortar retail. We want to automate loyalty and personalise marketing,” Alain Falys, co-founder and chairman of the company, shared.
Falys is familiar with incubating technology start-ups, having started in the early 2000s during the height of the dot come boom and subsequent bust. He had left Visa International Europe then and together with a few colleagues created a successful global electronic invoicing platform called OB10. It had a network of over 100 blue-chip multinational companies including HP, Sara Lee, BAT, Kellogg’s and public-sector organisations, and over 125,000 suppliers connected worldwide.
Bringing the ecommerce experience to the high street
He then went on, in 2005, to found a number of business incubators in the technology, internet services and ecommerce sectors. He co-founded Yoyo in 2013, as an extension of the work that he was doing in ecommerce with the aim of bringing personalised ecommerce type experiences into the high street stores.
“Yoyo is a mobile first marketing loyalty platform for retailers because it was an actual extension of e-commerce. If you understand e-commerce and you shop in physical stores, you’re thinking, hang on we’ve got these super smart mobile phones and you expect really personalised experience (as you have) with Spotify, with Amazon, with eBay. You don’t get it on a high street, you don’t get in stores. So how do we fix that? So that is how I kind of got into Yoyo,” he explained.
Transforming a high street experience into an ecommerce experience can now be facilitated by the mobile app, to address physical and legacy limitations of paper and manual processes. Falys explained that it allows companies to focus on the customer experience and to make significant improvements over the current experience.
“I’ve got a metric which I think works is if you don’t deliver that 10 times better than what people are used to, and then the likelihood that your product will work, whether it’s in a business-to-business environment or business-to-consumer is very low. It has to be at least ten times better than what people are used to. So, if you create an electronic invoicing platform and you basically get rid of the paper invoice for companies, that is more than 10 times. It’s really compelling. No paper, no manual processes, less people to handle that. All electronic, direct feed into your account and system that’s 10 times,” he enthused.
And for retailers, it means delivering that differentiated experience around payments and enabling it via mobile devices, he shared: “Everything is embedded into one single experience when I present my mobile to the scanner, I’ve paid, I get immediately my points or the stamps that I have earned for that particular product that is more ten times better than what we’ve experience today with paper and stamp cards. I think really focusing on the app product makes a real difference.”
Payments is not the problem
He took pains to explain that Yoyo is not changing the payment experience as it is already efficient and effective. However, the current rewards system, especially loyalty marketing, is quite deficient and needs to be improved.
“We don’t think that payment is broken, retailers get paid, and we know that consumers pay. We’ve got contactless, credit card you name it online and some great stuff. We don’t think that payment is a problem for anybody. What we think is broken is loyalty. And people like to be rewarded. They like to be rewarded for their customs, for their loyalty, for their purchases. And if we fix that in the digital age, it’s massive. It’s big for the retailers, of course, because loyalty creates footfall, footfall creates more sales,” he commented.
The key to fixing loyalty is to address retailers’ ability to offer personalised deals, Falys elaborated: “Everybody wants deals, that’s universal. So, I think focusing on loyalty marketing is much more interesting than focusing on payments. Like if you can bring the two together by even relying on incumbents, be it the card companies, the banks. Because our innovation is not in payment. Our innovation is in the automation and the personalisation of the loyalty experience. And if you link it to payment that is when the consumers like it.”
Yoyo is also focused on creating a brand-, platform- and “environment”-agnostic solution in order to encourage retailers to sign up and use it.
“We incentivise retailers to make their customers use Yoyo. The number one priority is to make Yoyo the loyalty platform of choice of all major brands, all major retailers, and that in itself turns the consumers into Yoyo users. Users use Yoyo within a Yoyo app, within a banking app, or within a chat or messenger environment, that’s not actually the most important thing. Our entire marketing loyalty platform from a technology standpoint is actually designed to be able to interact with these different environments. So, if the world is moving towards more attraction within social media platforms, more attraction within chats or messenger platforms then Yoyo will integrate into that. The starting point is the retailer. Adding value to the retailer is where we are focusing right now because it’s where and how we actually create the network that uses Yoyo,” he opined.
The ability to execute fast
The company started in the middle of 2013 and the first version of Yoyo was launched in early 2014 in a number of university campuses, it was until then self-funded. In June 2017, it raised a series B funding of $16 million, led by the US wholesale and food retail giant Metro Group, later joined by the UK-based Woodford Investment Management and Touchstone Innovations. It signed up local retail chains like Caffe Nero where its share of check-out reached 6% after only five months.
“We were very fast executing. We got the funding to execute fast. We have the right team to execute fast. And the real understanding of what problem we are trying to solve. So, fast forward, three and half years, we now have several thousand users and we are transacting over 1.7 million transactions a month. So, we are growing very fast. And it’s great to see that there is a real enthusiasm for using your mobile to pay when you actually add the extra component of loyalty and personalised rewards,” Falys quipped.
Yoyo is an example that “mobile payment for the sake of mobile payment is not changing people’s lives.” It is showing that a personalised reward experience that reward payment will get more people to start using their mobile for payments, especially in more mature cash-based markets where digital payment has not quite taken off yet.