How one B.C. tech firm is taking on Facebook with help from a global real estate firm

Kelowna’s GetintheLoop partnering with Cushman & Wakefield to offer technology at 21 malls across Canada

GetintheLoop's platform allows small businesses to connect with local customers | Photo: Submitted

Tech founder Matt Crowell has no illusions who his company’s biggest challenger is.

“We compete with Facebook [Inc. (Nasdaq:FB)], let’s face,” said the founder and CEO of Kelowna-based GetintheLoop Marketing Ltd.

The tech company specializes in apps that help local businesses in Canada offer exclusive deals to customers — territory Facebook has a firm hold on with its ability to offer advertising to those targeting narrow geographies and demographics.

But Crowell is confident a new partnership with global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield plc will extend the tech company’s reach that much more as it faces off with the social media giant for local business.

Beginning September 1, Cushman is rolling out GetintheLoop’s technology for 21 shopping centres across the country, including Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre and the Bay Centre in Victoria.

More than 1,500 retailers will be able to access GetintheLoop’s platform to offer deals to customers, many of whom are still reluctant to visit malls during the pandemic.

The app allows retailers to better co-ordinate everything from roadside pick-ups to deliveries, as well as purchasing gift cards.

“Post-COVID, it’s a new world and we’re trying to be at the forefront of technology with the tools that we’re implementing and the strategies we’re putting forward,” said Molly Westbrook, Cushman’s executive managing director for Canada.

Her company serves as agents for landlords at these malls and originally embarked on a pilot program with GetintheLoop last fall.

But Westbrook said the pandemic has since accelerated the need for technology adoption.

“We’re ultimately trying to achieve optimal results for these owners so they do have revenue generation. But a large part of that is the success of these individual retailers,” she said.

“This app helps retailers curate an experience for their customers so they can bring in revenue … which in turn helps our clients, the owners of these malls.”

GetintheLoop got its start in 2012 as a platform allowing golf courses to send text messages to locals to let them know about tee times and exclusive rates.

By 2014 the company was developing iOS and Android apps to expand beyond golf courses and target local businesses, offering an avenue for the latter to connect with customers and offer exclusive offers.

The Okanagan tech firm now employs 40 workers and has launched 75 franchises in just under two years.

Franchisees pay an up-front licence — around $15,000 for smaller markets and $35,000 for typical markets — to approach businesses with the promise of being able to connect with locals for exclusive offers.

GetintheLoop and franchisees in turn share revenue, although the revenue-sharing arrangement changes for national accounts such as Cushman & Wakefield.

“If they [franchisees] sign up 50 companies, they’re making $100,000 a year on recurring revenue,” Crowell said.

The CEO describes the tech as functioning like a marketing platform for small businesses owners who are usually too focused on their daily operations to concentrate on the added burden of marketing.

“That’s why we franchise — because now we have another business owner who’s now in that community and can stop by every 60 days, see how you’re doing, come up with some more creative offers and make sure it’s working,” Crowell said.

So far the company’s growth has been funded by revenue and angel investors rather than venture capital.

But Crowell said revenue took a big hit as small businesses were forced to shut down amid the pandemic.

As provincial economies emerge from lockdowns, GetintheLoop’s app engagement has grown 400% in the last 90 days compared with the January to March period, according to Crowell. 

GetintheLoop is assisting just under 5,000 small businesses as of July 2020 and expects that number to grow to about 10,000 by year’s end.

“Because I think with technology, that’s where it falls down for small business owners,” Crowell said.