The company that lets you take Facebook to the shops
- 23 November 2010
- From the section Business
Filling in a restaurant promotion form after a meal out with friends inspired serial entrepreneur Aneace Haddad to launch Taggo - a service that simplifies the process of collecting loyalty rewards in shops and restaurants.
"One day when I was having a meal nearby, near my place, they had a membership form to fill out to become a member of that retailer's programme," he recalls.
"They only had two restaurants and I was thinking you wouldn't fill out that form…just to have another card that's only for that retailer."
Mr Haddad was annoyed at the prospect of having yet another loyalty card stuffed into his wallet. So he dreamt up a service he calls Taggo - short for tap and go.
The idea he says is simple: take a plastic card with a unique identity number, one you use for everyday tasks such as contactless payments or paying for public transport. Next, register it with the online service. Then you can use your card to sign up as a fan on the Facebook pages of retailers or restaurants, and be in line to receive special offers and discounts.
"It's a substitute for coupons, it's a substitute for cards so the retailer doesn't have to issue his own loyalty card," he explains. "You just tap your transit card and on the screen the clerk sees whether or not you're a fan."
Taggo is currently undergoing what Mr Haddad calls "a soft launch", and he says Singapore is a good place to do this in: "Right now retailers are really going nuts about fan pages, about Facebook. I've met a surprising number of retailers here in Singapore that don't have web pages, websites, but they have Facebook fan pages…they're building fan pages faster than websites."
"There's a huge Facebook penetration in this part of Asia. These…tap and go cards, there are 9 million of them in Singapore," he explains.
The city state has other advantages too: "It's very, very small. You can get a lot done in a day. Very easy to get around town, go to various meetings."
Aneace Haddad hopes his service has the capacity to one day become global - but he rejects the suggestion that he is tying his fate too closely to a single online platform, Facebook.
"There's nothing preventing someone like Google from creating a fan page concept," he says. "They have business pages in an embryonic form…those could easily grow and become bigger business pages, which could integrate Taggo as well"
But if his plan is successful and there is huge take-up of the service, won't that erode the competitive advantages for retailers of having a loyalty scheme in the first place?
Aneace Haddad says not: "if a retailer is strong enough to issue a loyalty card to 80 percent of its customers and the customers say, 'wow, I really want that card in my wallet and it'll stay in my wallet all of the time', maybe the retailer should continue doing that. Most do not have that anymore."
Mr Haddad believes that his service will make it easier for many more retailers to experiment with a loyalty card scheme and find out if it will benefit them.
Mr Haddad acknowledges that his product essentially capitalises on what is an already established relationship between the retailer and the customer to ensure that the customer walks into the store.
But he says that the best ideas are often those which provide a missing link. Nevertheless, he admits that such ideas are difficult to induce. "When you're looking for solutions you can't really build it. It just has to come in a flash."
However, he is sceptical that he could have brought his idea to life as a younger man. He says, "I was a lot stiffer. I was too demanding and I wanted it my way…There's a lot of flexibility that comes over time."
He is dismissive of the notion that older entrepreneurs find it difficult to make the most of new industries and technologies to create successful business systems.
As a veteran of the electronic payments industry, he's found the network of contacts he has built through his previous jobs has proved invaluable.
"I see now it's the reputation I have in the industry because it's easy for me to get the meetings I want…I can get people involved in this…There's something about having a certain notoriety and experience and everything, just makes it tremendously easier to do this."
But ultimately, Mr Haddad believes the failure of many entrepreneurs is due to the absence of any self-check or scrutiny on their ideas. He says, "I notice the vast majority of people don't go through that…they'll launch stuff without going through: so what? who cares? why me?…and then after a few years they pull the plug."
His advice is: "If you're hard on yourself with those questions and you can find credible answers to them, you probably have something that's very valuable." All that's left is to "remove the barriers…and get out of the way so it can explode."