Throughout the July / August vacation period, the Rude Baguette will be running a series of interviews with some of France’s top and rising startups, where their founders give us more insight into their business, their future plans and what sets them apart from the rest. In our first installment, we talk with Alexis Laporte, CEO and Founder of fast-growing mobile marketing startup Unitag, who with over 1 million users on their platform and 1,000 business customers, are seeking to transform how brands and companies approach mobile marketing around the world.
Tell us a bit about Unitag. What do you do and how did it develop?
Unitag is a startup based in Toulouse, we are focused on making mobile technologies accessible to everyone. We provide a comprehensive online platform to help marketers create fully-customizable communication campaigns and grow their mobile audience in a few clicks.
I founded Unitag 3 years ago with 4 friends, when we were still students. Smartphone adoption was already on the rise and we noticed a lack of handy tools for businesses to embrace mobile technologies. So we decided to develop an online QR Code generator with smart design features, along with a mobile website editor. This is where it all started. Since then we’ve turned our generator into an integrated mobile marketing platform, and we reached 1 million users in 186 countries in early 2014!
There are quite a few companies out there focusing on mobile marketing. What sets Unitag apart from the rest?
Yes, the mobile marketing area is an exciting innovative market with lots of service providers, startups and agencies doing creative work. And this apparent complexity of the ecosystem may impede some businesses to get started with mobile marketing.
At Unitag, we decided to show marketers that they can do mobile marketing by themselves, combining their ideas with our all-in-one platform! This year, we have been working on a powerful “mobile marketing engine”, which sets a new standard for mobile marketing operations. We turned our QR Code platform into a solution that fulfills every mobile marketing need of both small and large businesses. We want them to be able to fully leverage mobile drivers such as QR Codes, NFC, iBeacon, Image recognition combined with rich content like mobile contest, survey, couponing, all this in one single platform. To this end, we just launched our “ready-to-use” Web App tool this month and partnered with a Paris and London based-partner called Telequid to integrate image recognition.
I understand that you’re looking to emerge as the marketing hub for connecting brands with mobile consumers across channels. How interested do you find brands to be about mobile? Is there a general awareness with consumer oriented brands that mobile should be at the core of their strategy and, of course, their marketing and promotional activities?
Sure. At the beginning, we had many clients sparingly using mobile for brand image only, without even thinking about the content behind. But in today’s evolving digital landscape, with mobile at the point of surpassing any other media in term of usage, brands can no longer just “do mobile” – it is time to do mobile right! We see a radical change in our customers’ approach in terms of mobile marketing, with an increase of qualitative mobile content and smart mobile communication campaigns. Brands now seem to fully integrate the mobile channel as part of their marketing strategy and think more in a multi-channel way, trying to enhance the user experience. We are very happy about this! We’ve been working hard since the beginning to democratize the right use of mobile. We also launched lately a new blog dedicated to mobile marketing best practices.
You have an interesting and impressive line-up of clients. Can you share with us an example of a client success story for Unitag? How did your solution make a difference for that clients’ business?
We are also learning a lot by working with clients from such diverse size and sectors! We recently interviewed Health/Beauty Group Pierre Fabre, one of our big clients . They are using QR Codes across all their brands (Avène, Galénic, Elancyl…), primarily on product packaging to guide customers through the path of purchase. Multi-user management is particularly important for them, to regroup and align all mobile campaigns strategies in one single platform and keep control across brands and channels in the restrictive healthcare environment. Along with the usability of our platform, simple-to-use for every employee, I think this is where Unitag made the difference
There are quite a few differences across markets in terms of the type of mobile technologies used, ie QR Codes, NFC, etc. How does this add complexity to your business? Do you feel in the long-term the market will naturally migrate towards one type of technology? Why or why not?
Actually, we approach it in a different way. The variety of mobile drivers and the continuous emergence of new ones do not add complexity to our business. Quite the contrary: they open a lot of new opportunities! The worldwide web is getting fragmented with news devices, new networks, news mobile drivers coming up every day. But the web stays an open standard that will unify everything at the end. Companies keep their focus on making their products accessible to everyone, everywhere.
There won’t be any winner, because each technologies has its own (complementary) advantages in terms of marketing applications, based upon technical specificities: range, cost, lifetime expectancy, behavior. QR Code to enhance and measure print campaigns in a cost-effective way, NFC to support every kind of device communication in one single tap, iBeacon as a push marketing way for in-store, targeted promotions, etc.
Your clients and user-base are highly international. How did you develop internationally and which geographies are you looking to expand to next?
We are one of the few startups that can claim to have been international since the very first year! In fact, our first QR Code generator generated worldwide hype thanks to its innovative design features and user-friendly interface. We happened to be featured on a lot of blogs without investing any communication budget – which helped us gain a lot of international users from the start. Plus, many brands were also seduced very early by our platform and helped us expand internationally too. Today, around 45% of our platform’s users are based out of France (10% in the US). And we are not going to stop! We are focusing on the US market right now and we want to develop further European markets by next year.
What are the next big steps for you as a company?
Our mobile marketing engine has a lot to show to the world, it sets a standard for managing mobile drivers, APIs and web content, all this materialized in Web Apps. We will continue to unveil its components, for even smarter mobile campaigns. Mainly known for QR Codes, we’re starting to gain attention thanks to our Web Apps. If we do things right, we ought to expect a big step up in our international business next year.