Craig speaks with Matt Crowell, Founder and CEO of GetintheLoop, about AI and its implications on malls and the retail industry as a whole. It’s an interesting discussion on what the future of AI might look like as it becomes accessible to the public. A transcript of the discussion is available below as well.
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Featured during this interview:
Craig Patterson 0:03
Welcome to the Retail Insider video series. I’m your host, Craig Patterson. And we’re joined here today with a special guest, Matt Crowell. He’s the founder and CEO of GetintheLoop. Welcome, Matt.
Matt Crowell 0:14
Hey, Craig, hey, thanks for having me.
Craig Patterson 0:17
Now, for those who are unfamiliar, tell us quickly what GetintheLoop is.
Matt Crowell 0:20
Yeah, um, so GetintheLoop. It’s a shop local platform. So for a business, they use us to deploy promotions or their loyalty strategies. So it’s all about attracting and retaining customers. And then we have our own app, the the GetintheLoop app. So it’s the largest shop local app in Canada. And so it’s a place for consumers to find great local promotions and loyalty rewards from local businesses, national brands, and even their shopping center.
Craig Patterson 0:42
Excellent. Speaking of shopping centers, we wanted to talk a little bit today about digital integration into shopping centers a little bit around AI, general conversation around that, and let’s break into it. What do you see in shopping centers in terms of sort of digital integration and new technologies? We can keep that as a bit of a broader question.
Matt Crowell 0:58
Yeah, I mean, I think you’ve seen quite a bit of a transformation over the last three years, I think the pandemic really set it on where a shopping center had to start to be a digital partner, with a lot of their tenants and retailers. And that’s just continued on. I mean, you see a lot of the big groups making significant investments, and even smaller groups really, really making it, it’s anywhere from some groups that are launching their own apps and their own Ecommerce solutions that include delivery and pickup. And even to the point that you see small strip centers now building their own website, where it’s important, even as a strip center with 15 tenants to have a website and some sort of digital presence for your tenants and for consumers, right? So it’s, it’s something that’s continually evolving, but we’re seeing quite a bit of investment in the space. And it’s neat to see.
Craig Patterson 1:41
It’s kind of like the conversation around omni channel with retailers themselves in terms of consumers now can go on a website, you know, get to know it’s there, perhaps before they go, some actual shopping centers even have I guess, shopping platforms that have been created where you can shop in the mall, digitally, but AI has certainly come into that as well, whether or not as chatbots or otherwise, how are we seeing AI being integrated into shopping centers and with brands in terms of marketing and otherwise?
Matt Crowell 2:07
Yeah, I mean, for the brands, especially right now, you know, you can see AI to me is what it’s really doing early on here is it’s allowing for personalization to be kind of supercharged, I think every brand wants to make their message and communication to a potential customer, as personalized as possible. And I think AI is just it’s ramping that up. And so a brand’s ability to not only target but communicate and be relevant to a consumer at a local level, and really a personal level, I think is continually evolving. And you’re seeing that more and more in terms of how a brand can market to you on cross channels across social across email, you know, whether it be alerts to your phone. So that’s one way and then from a shopping center point of view, I think there’s gonna be multiple ways that it starts to make a really big impact for them. I mean, we’re working on some stuff where we can help support their digital strategy. And it’s using AI in a way that really, really what it’s about is empowering the tenants, right and empowering the retailers to participate more digitally with that shopping center. But from a shopping center point of view, it’s gonna be anywhere from content creation, they’re going to be able to understand information better. So when they’re talking to potential tenants, I mean, you can see how it’s going to kind of go from top to bottom and what a shopping center does over time, but we’re kind of early days. And I what I’m seeing is just a personalized marketing approach has been really Supercharged.
Craig Patterson 3:19
And this is done through machine learning. So that becomes like a smarter and also understands what the consumer might be looking for.
Matt Crowell 3:24
Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s the basic gist of it. Right, each brand, depending on their level of sophistication is going to be doing it better. And, you know, it’s going to be interesting to see because naturally, when new technology comes out, it’s the larger brands and the larger groups that usually take advantage of it earlier. But I really do think that AI can democratize that ability, right? It’s going to also bring automation, sophistication and personalization to local businesses and local brands at some point to its do they have the resources and wherewithal to use it in the right way will be the kind of key differentiator here
Craig Patterson 3:54
And is fake news for Ecommerce as well. I know with things like chat bots on websites, I’ll be on there and something will pop up and say, Can we help you? And it’s not probably going to be a human on the other side?
Matt Crowell 4:07
Yeah, yeah. It’s, it’s interesting. I mean, one thing that I think we’ve been seeing that that change happened for a long time, you know, there’s a lot of buzz, there’s been a bunch of new technology that’s coming out, that’s making a pretty big difference. But a lot of this has been going on, it just continues to get better. I think one of the biggest surprises for me, when when this has all become the phenomenon the last couple of months here, really, I would have never seen it really going up the creative space. I mean, I wouldn’t have thought, you know, it’s like it’s taking over a lot of the creative space, you’re seeing it, design images, write blogs, write custom posts, it’s, you know, that wasn’t where I saw AI taking over or making a huge impact, but it seems to be early on, it’s in the creative space, which was a surprise to me.
Craig Patterson 4:46
Well, now they’re saying that AI I mean, it’s almost adopting, in some cases, human tech qualities and there’s been some fear that it can almost become human and smarter than humans and I mean, there’s with AI lawyers and it’s quite interesting.
Matt Crowell 5:02
Yeah, that’s, that’s one of the biggest industries I’ve heard that it’s going to really make a difference on is things that can be printed pressed a little bit. I mean, you know, legal is obviously based off of a functional set of rules. And so it’s, you know, I’ve heard that there’s real disruption happening in the legal space right now, I don’t know much about it, but when I’m talking to different associates, that seems to be one of the spots that it’s going to make a big difference pretty quickly.
Craig Patterson 5:25
I’m curious myself as a former lawyer, I mean, it was pretty hard doing legal research years ago, I mean, databases. But anyways, with AI out there, the machine could have a competitive advantage over a human being that would actually have to be able to read these things. Let’s talk a bit about loyalty as well, including, say, retailers with multi brand locations, AI is being integrated into this and think a little bit as well. Can you tell me more about that?
Matt Crowell 5:53
Yeah, and I think I mean, it comes down to when you think about a multilocation brand, one of the challenges for them is how do you support all of your different locations? And potentially, where they are the types of customers they serve the point in their lifecycle? Are they just building up? Have they been in that location for multiple years? And that’s one of the things that I think multilocation brands have struggled with for years is how do you support various locations across the country that have different needs? I mean, it’s been one of their challenges on social media, if you look at different brands, they have 58 different social media accounts, and some of them are posting often some of them are never posting and and how do you how do you automate that, and so you can see where AI in their loyalty space and just in their digital approach is gonna make it a lot simpler for them, I mean, it’s going to be able to have a customized approach based on location based on a customer’s interests. And really loyalty is trying to serve up the right thing at the right time to a loyal customer. And it’s adding value, but really, what you’re trying to do is incentivize repeat purchases, larger purchases, and the more information you have on a consumer, and the better able to serve information that’s relevant, you know, the more successful the program will be. And so I’m sure we’re gonna continue to see a lot of this rolling out from, you’ve been seeing it for years, the big brands like Starbucks, but you’re gonna see that kind of going down market with smaller brands that will, you know, be getting access to this technology and being able to be more sophisticated in their approach to a consumer, and ultimately, in their approach to building loyalty. When you guys think about it, how do you see retail insider work? And like working this into your business? I mean, it’s I know, it’s also new to us, but you guys are very much in the content business? And I’m interested in how you see it?
Craig Patterson 7:28
That’s a good question. That’s a good question. Because, I mean, I’m a bit older. So I don’t want to stay my early adopter of technology. But I’ve definitely been thinking about ChatGPT more specifically, not not to cheat or to do anything, where we’re not giving the best editorial quality, hopefully. But in that ChatGPT I think right now is only available for information that’s up to some at some point in 2021. But I was thinking for something with, say, a historical background or something that we would need that, you know, would speak to something that had happened before 2021, even if it’s 1670 will say the Hudson’s Bay Company, ChatGPT could actually save us some time in terms of being able to have that research done having something that’s at least partially written, we would always want to go in and make sure that there’s edits and that it’s factually correct. I’ve heard that there could be some issues around fact checking need to be done and what not with these. It’s not perfect yet, but something that that’s something that I had looked at as well. In terms of other things with AI, I’m just thinking off the top of my head. I mean, we don’t have a chat bot on the website, would we do it? I have no idea. I don’t know if we would need it to be honest. We, we would sometimes I find them a little bit annoying when they pop up. I know I probably shouldn’t. But I don’t know. And maybe I should ask you as well, if you have any ideas for us, because again, with the publication here, AI is a little bit new to me. You know, I’m a little bit older than some of the employees will all of them that we have pretty much other than one. So…(laugh)
Craig Patterson 8:53
You know, I think it’s what you said I could see worlds where you guys obviously want to build very large amounts of relevant content that’s important to your readers. And so the ability for you know, the different products to be able to write content that’s relevant, I still think you need the lens, edited by an individual that can make sure it’s through the right lens and voice. I know, one thing we can chat about in the past is, you guys are always looking to be more localized and relevant to your readership. And I think there’s going to be ways that you can work that in where you can serve up more relevant information at a localized level. I know you do some of that already today. But those are early wins, I could see. And then, you know, one of the things that we are doing at loop and I think would be similar to you, you have a newsletter that you send out. And that newsletter is generally like a conglomerate of all the great articles that have been posted in the last week or different things with maybe a leading article. But it’s something where you could have that all pulled together pre written for you. And even back referencing other other letters that would be relevant. So it could be it can be really good at building that. That’s, that’s one of the like things that really made a difference for us pretty early on, is we’ve got a ton of content across the country of local businesses, promotions and things like that. And our email we had a recommender system built in a very light one that is supposed to show the right information at the right time to a consumer. But the reality is, that’s not simple. But now, when implementing some of these new tools, it can quite simply pull together so much better information in real time, right, a little bit of a note around that information. So it’s making that information easier to digest for our consumers. It’s even writing push notifications and things like that. Now, we still check it all off, because it’s pretty early days, but you can do quite a bit of unique stuff with it, I could see how that would work into your business kind of similar to ours, we’re both publishing content in a different way and, and trying to engage consumers, right.
Craig Patterson 10:34
Yeah, and GetintheLoop, I think a lot of information, was it? Would it has AI helped to aggregate things or tell me a bit about the usefulness that you’ve seen?
Matt Crowell 10:42
Yeah, I mean, early on, a lot of it was automating a lot of stuff that we had people doing, you know, so that’s been nice, we’ve been able to free up some resources by using it. And a lot of that was content creation. So we already had, you know, 1000s of businesses offers, but there’s still somebody in the background deciding what was the push notification, what should be in that email. And all of that is getting automated. So it’s freeing up resources to go do other things. So there’s a little bit of efficiencies in our business, which is come on pretty nice. And then one of the ways we’re really seeing it impact us and we’re excited about is our ability to integrate into social is really kind of getting supercharged by this. So we’ve been integrated into the social platforms. But the reality is, you still needed somebody to write a really neat, you know, caption and maybe attach an image and understand the right hashtags and the right time to send it out. Like, there was still a lot of, you know, human work that had to do that had to be done to get something live onto a social platform. And now with all of the different technology they’re coming up with, there’s some really neat ways that you can integrate into social and make it easier, I could see a world where it’s gonna get a lot easier for multilocation brands, shopping centers, and others, to get their content live more often in a better way. And at scale. But, you know, that’s going to take some time, there’s, those are some of the things we’re working on that I’m hoping that you guys will help support a new product launch we’re coming up with here in the next month or two. So I don’t want to say too much, but we’re definitely seeing some big opportunities with it. So we’ll be hopefully sharing more insight as we get it tested, and make sure it works the right way.
Craig Patterson 12:07
I bet you guys know I can’t wait to learn more because again, I gotta learn more about AI, I do feel like I’m going to be a late adapter with some stuff. Even though you know, retail insider here, it’s still one of those things where I remember when you had to, you know, spin a, spin up a panel to dial a phone on the wall, and a person rented by quite baffling, but also really exciting. And no smaller businesses can get it on, I guess, utilizing AI technology, generally, it’s just a matter I guess, of where to begin and how it’s going to be useful. And I know that some people, you know, may not know the answer to that, or what questions to ask even.
Matt Crowell 12:42
Yeah, I mean, that’s where I think it’s really neat, right? The number one thing that’s hurting small businesses, they’re resources, both in money and people. And so you know, if you’re today paying an outsourced Social Media Manager, there’s a real world opportunity here where you can have AI write you great social posts every day or week, and you can just approve them. And so one thing people struggle with is creative, you know, the ability to be creative and think about what to post on social. And you can go as far as saying what’s relevant for a coffee shop, like mine in the city? What sort of topics should be talked about this day, a week? Now? Can you write me some and it will, and those are things you pay the Social Media Manager for. And so it could be a savings of money, and potentially a better strategy they could deploy on social. So I think it’s gonna be neat to see which like, how quickly do small businesses adopt these tools, you know, entrepreneurs are usually pretty scrappy, they’ll figure that out. But digital adoption has accelerated so much. I mean, small businesses have had to take on a lot, it’s first get a website, and that would be an Ecomm. Now, do digital advertising, understand social, oh, implement AI, I mean, we’ll just see how quickly they can do it. But you can see how it can give a really neat competitive advantage to a small business. I mean, that’s, that’s really where our platform was built was helping local business. And some of the tools we’re building out on this is to help a small business better market themselves automatically, and make it simpler, because the reality is small business owners are good at what they’d like to do. And they’re not always great at digital. And so I’m hopeful that these tools really help bring some power to the local business community.
Craig Patterson 14:05
Well, that is excellent. And in terms of using AI generally, for business with age, I mean, obviously, there’s GetintheLoop for the loyalty side. And then you know, the other platforms you’ve got, say, if I wanted to start utilizing things, is there a general this is I feel like I’m dumb question I’m asking but a general place that a person can go like, I logged into the ChatGPT platform, I did not start using it yet. But I think I created an account, or at least I hope I did it right. Yeah. Is there a barrier to access? Or how easy is this to utilize? Or to just get started using? I guess that’s a better question.
Matt Crowell 14:37
That’s where I would start. I mean, I think the hard part for most people is probably even visualizing what it’s capable of doing and understanding the capabilities. Right. And I would start there and ChatGPT, get in there, ask questions. You know, it’s like, the early stages of learning, like start to understand the kinds of information it’s capable of the kinds of outputs it can do. And then as a business, start to think about how that plays into what you’re trying to achieve on a day to day basis, right and because there’s gonna be a lot of efficiencies in small businesses that this sort of technology is going to be able to help them with as well. I know it’s early days, but to me, it’s like it’s starting right where you hit, it’s getting there, ask some questions, and get the basic learning and then let your mind take you where you think you can really make a difference. Right? That’s, it’s, it’s a neat time, because it’s really early in the adoption curve here.
Craig Patterson 15:19
I’m gonna try this myself. I’m curious. I mean, I think a lot of people are curious, probably more after they watch or listen to this here. But because I think we are in some uncharted territory. Do you think that I mean, and this isn’t just a general question. I mean, I wonder how AI could and this is many people are going to ask this replace humans or I mean, obviously, we’ve got the efficiencies. But I’m just thinking over time, are we going to need a lawyer? Are we going to need, you know, obviously, a call center could be in, you know, at least efficiently reduced in terms of the number of employees there, but but this could have implications on the general population in terms of future employability?
Matt Crowell 15:54
Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s going to I mean, I’m sure it already is, in so many cases. I mean, as for our company alone, I can tell you that it has already replaced roles. And we those roles have been redeployed in other areas, but it’s automated stuff that that you could do more of quicker. I think, you know, I’ve read some posts, and I really like these comments is like, AI is not going to take your job, they’re still going to people that need to learn how to work, yeah, and work best. And it’s like it is going to take jobs with new jobs will be created on using these tools. Right. And that will create new opportunities. I’m always an optimist, that there, there will still be some good that comes out of this. But, you know, if you follow some of the major tech leaders, there’s a lot of concerns. And our our CTO, he always says to me, he’s like, just remember AI lies. Remember, AI lies. And so even as we’re working with, it’s a slow process to make sure you’re doing it in the right way. And and it will be interesting to see how it affects the employment market. It’s like I said, like I was, I was just shocked, I would have always believed the one place in the world that was safe was creatives. You know, people that could write music, write blogs, build design. And that’s where it’s going. And I was like, Oh, that was a big shock for me, I would have never seen that.
Craig Patterson 16:59
Yeah, I mean, for myself, I was thinking, but even if we are, say, writing an article with retail insider, I put an element of analysis into certain things, depending on what I’m doing. But I’m just thinking, you know, I might write about say a state standalone retailer opening a store, and that brand was in another multi brand store. And then it pulled out and they would talk about the trends around that. And I’m not sure if AI would do the same job as a human that has background knowledge and something I can analyze and think. But who knows, maybe I could, I don’t know.
Matt Crowell 17:31
Wait, you gotta, so you gotta send me a text. After you go try this, it is going to blow your mind how it will write articles on the most in depth information. If I was to type into AI, explain what GetintheLoop is, why a business would pay for it, why consumers love it, and write me a blog about it and write me a blog. If it’s relevant today, make that blog shorter, it will be way better than explain my company. I mean, it might sound a bit robotic, and you need a bit of editing. But yeah, I mean, I’ve done some tests around on this stuff. And it’s like, it’s, it’s pretty amazing. So I can see some real relevance in your world for like I said, you guys know your voice and, and you know, your audience. And so I think there’s still a certain level of human element that needs to be massaging and editing. But I mean, it could whip you out articles in five seconds, that will be 95% impressive. And, and real relevant. You know, it’s, it’s pretty impressive stuff. As you get an interest with it, I’ll be, I’ll be interested to see how much you guys implement it.
Craig Patterson 18:25
I’m gonna have to try this, you just convinced me to go in and at least try these things. For those watching or listening. We don’t plan on having low quality content, we’re not going to be changing things significantly. But I do want to try this out and just see because it sounds like you know, the quality could be there. There could be some efficiencies, perhaps we could be able to produce some more content, and perhaps more localized content, like say, you know, we may be able to break things down and say this is what’s happening in Regina. And this is what’s happening in Winnipeg, Yellowknife. I don’t know if much is happening up there. But you know what I mean, in terms of doing something localized, Kelowna, where you are doing a little bit more local reporting, because, you know, we’ve only we only have so many reporters and we really do have to handpick what we’re reporting on. And we try to do a mix of local and obviously, you know, really big stories, whether or not that’s Costco or Canadian Tire or Hudson’s Bay. But if there’s efficiencies that can come from this, I think that’s absolutely tremendous. It’s a matter of, I think, you know, we would want to maintain the quality of what we’re doing, and certainly at least make sure that we’re checking over what’s being written because I wouldn’t want you know, just any old crap going out basically.
Matt Crowell 19:27
Totally, ya know, it’d be like, it’s baby steps, right. But the number one thing is, you know, over I think we’ve all learned over time is when new technology comes into play, the The advantage is at least understanding and understanding it and seeing where you can implement it. And for anybody out there, I would encourage them to to learn as much as they can, because it’s not going away. It’s going to continue to be more and more relevant and not everybody has to be an expert or like it, but knowing about it is going to be helpful. It’s like anybody that didn’t think digital was important 10 years ago, or phones were important 20 years ago. I mean, it’s coming.
Craig Patterson 19:57
So that thank you so much. I’m looking at forward to hearing what’s going to be happening with GetintheLoop, you’re saying that there’s gonna be some announcements coming down the pipeline here. And it’s really interesting conversation about AI, integrating that into retail shopping centers, retail otherwise, and the future I’m gonna go off and try this myself here and start playing with it a little bit and just see what kind of capabilities that it has. So, this is Matt Crowell. He’s the founder and CEO of GetintheLoop. Thank you so much, Matt, for joining us today.
Matt Crowell 20:24
Yeah, thanks for having me Craig.
Craig Patterson 20:26
And I’m Craig Patterson. I’m the founder, CEO and publisher of Retail Insider Media Limited. I’m also the host of this Retail Insider video interview series. Thank you so much, everyone for joining us here today. Whether or not you’re watching this on YouTube or otherwise, or listening to this through our podcast channels that we have as well. Be sure to subscribe with whatever platforms you’re listening to this on, if you aren’t already. Thank you so much again for being with us here today. Take care and bye for now.
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