Hong Kong mobile operator SmarTone wants to give retailers in the city a Kiss, and more business

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 August, 2015, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 August, 2015, 7:13pm

Hong Kong wireless network operator SmarTone Telecommunications wants to connect the city's retailers with consumers through a new service that ties together digital marketing and loyalty programmes with data analytics and mobile payments.

The ambitious service called "Kiss" is a ready-to-use marketing platform that enables merchants, for a monthly fee, to create their own mobile storefronts, directly communicate and interact with customers to gain a deeper understanding of what they want, and launch targeted campaigns.

At the Kiss launch on Thursday, SmarTone chief executive Douglas Li described the service as "the ultimate shopping partner" for consumers since they will get the latest information from retailers, while receiving certain rewards for every purchase made through the platform.

"Kiss puts the power back in the hands of retailers and delivers tangible benefits to their consumers," Li said. "I believe it will redefine the rules of retail engagement in Hong Kong."

The platform, which is operated by SmarTone subsidiary Kissco Marketing Services, is free to use by all consumers across all cellular networks and Wi-fi connections in Hong Kong.

It also supports the two most popular smartphone platforms, Android and iOS. The Kiss app can be downloaded from both Google Play and Apple's App Store.

UnionPay International is the launch credit card partner for Kiss, although efforts are being made to sign up Visa and MasterCard to the platform, senior SmarTone executives said.

The Kiss marketing platform, which is expected to cost a few hundred dollars a month for merchant users, includes online tools for retailers to create professional-looking mobile storefronts and messaging campaigns, the Kiss mobile payment terminal, capabilities for customer data analytics and an initial Bluetooth beacon for their store.

These Kiss beacons are devices specifically configured to push notifications, such as a greeting and special offers, in-store or near the store to the smartphones of nearby customers who have activated the Kiss app.

"This service is cheaper for retailers than employing staff to go distribute leaflets in front of their stores, or hiring an agency to create their own app," Patrick Chan Kai-lung, the executive director at SmarTone, told the South China Morning Post.

"If you look at the alternatives for a merchant, these primitive sales and marketing practices -- like distributing leaflets -- are not efficient and provide no actionable analytics."

Consumers can download the Kiss Wallet for free, a feature that allows consumers to store their credit card details, retailer cash credits and promotional Kiss Dollars on the online platform. With the free Kiss pay, consumers can pay, redeem and be rewarded for purchases by simply using their smartphones to tap on the Kiss terminal in the store.

Chan said Kissco receives "a very small commission" from the retailer for every transaction of their customers using the Kiss platform.

That Kiss platform would appear to trump the recently-launched "Tap & Go" mobile payment service of larger rival HKT because of the bigger revenue potential from combining mobile marketing, interaction with targeted consumers, payments and customer data analytics.

"A lot of people are just focusing on mobile payments through the NFC (near-field communications) capability of smartphones. Actually, that is not a big money-earner when you compare it to an end-to-end marketing platform for retailers," Chan said.

He said there was no scheduled roll-out date for Kiss until "we get a critical mass of retailers to support it".

"The service is for merchants of all sizes, but especially the medium-sized retail chains that find it hard to compete against larger merchants and those online."