Thabang Mashiloane, the founder and CEO of Vsites Digital Marketing Agency based in Sandton, trialed iBeacon and started Backend for malls in Johannesburg. He built the apps and set the Backend to manage the beacon and placed it in the malls to increase sale of the malls.
“Last year I started building the app and the CMS from scratch and showed it to my colleagues,” Mashiloane tells us. “Since then we have approached a few malls in Johannesburg, like Sandton Mall and Nelson Mandela Square, which have been very keen to back the idea.”
The revenue model has a three-pronged approach:
- The subscription model where the retailer gets charged. There are three packages, ranging from R1 000 to R5 000 per month. It all depends on the kind of features the retailer wants to get, like push notifications, navigation to the specific product, geopay.
- The GeoPay feature — a payment platform which charges companies 2% per transaction.
- The third stream of revenue would come from selling the actual Beacons directly to the retailers.
According to a report by the Treasury, the number of shopping centres in Gauteng, South Africa increased from 111 in 2002 to 634 in 2010. This massive growth has also prompted the country’s Council of Shopping Centres to estimate the industry to be one of the largest in the world, beating the likes of Germany and Australia with the amount of shopping centres over 2 000 square metres.
To get initial traction, the Johannesburg-based startup has been working with events like Maker Faire Africa where visitors received push notifications on relevant content while walking around the conference centre. Mashiloane notes that this trial didn’t go as well as they anticipated because of load-shedding issues.
Mashiloane has bootstrapped the startup through Vsites Digital Agency, which he founded back in 2010 after finishing his BTech degree in IT at the London School of Business Management.
Asked about where his inspiration for GeoMall came from, he says that he’s always been frustrated by the fact that most retailers are still forced to deal with expensive, traditional means of advertising. “There are about 200 stores in your average mall. A retailer will generally pay around R20 000 per month for a digital ad,” he adds. “GeoMall is introducing a whole new advertising model to this industry.”
Mashiloane explains that IoT is beginning to drastically reduce the amount of effort people need to do simple day-to-day tasks. “It’s automating activities in a cloud space which can provide important data.”
“We are currently busy finalising the prototype,” he says. “In terms of our customers, we spoke to most of the brands around Nelson Mandela Square like Woolworths and Stuttafords. All of them are very excited and waiting for us to start rolling out the product.”