An innovative Kiwi research firm is looking to give Kiwi businesses a new weapon in the fight against giants like Amazon.
Dubbed Paydar, the tool developed by Auckland-based insights firm TRA and Paymark gives businesses access to the electronic purchase data of their customers.
TRA partner and lead on the project Antony Ede said Paydar has only been made possible because of the widespread adoption of electronic card payments. As customers have moved away from cash, it has become easier to collect, process and understand the data.
Rather relying on their gut or anecdotal evidence, Ede told the Herald business owners can use Paydar to get an actual sense of where their revenue is coming from.
The tool taps into an enormous data set made up through the transactional data of between 80,000 and 100,000 businesses using Paymark's electronic payment system.
Running online through the cloud, Paydar goes beyond standard demographic profiling and allows the user to draw a clear customer roadmap, showing which regions customers come from, where they spend most of their money, where they go before entering a store, where they head to afterwards, which competitors they're shopping at and how often they return.
"The really interesting thing about Paymark is that they have data on everyone," says Ede.
As businesses learn more about their customers, they can better target potential prospects through their marketing, says Ede.
"We're seeing a lot of customers refining their target audiences in their Facebook ads at the moment," he says.
Getting access to this type of information has until now been cost-prohibitive for most businesses, particularly smaller independents, Ede explains.
"Historically, this kind of information has been done through consulting engagements so, in a way, we're disrupting ourselves," he says.
Bigger companies, particularly multi-nationals, have historically been able to invest in research because they have the scale and available funds to this.
Ede says "the Amazons, the Googles and Facebooks are investing massively" in tools which then sit within their companies, allowing them to own and control all the data.
"It allows them to stay on top," he said.
"Even the big retailers in New Zealand have nothing compared to the scale of something like Amazon.
"Paydar is an attempt to break that paradigm. You get something that democratises this, so that the small guys get as much as the big guys.
"For New Zealand to compete on a global stage, we're going to have to do something differently. We're not going to spawn off our own Amazon and win. We're just not big enough."
While the word data often seems esoteric and somewhat inaccessible, Ede says Paydar provides a useful practical application in allowing the store owner to separate what they think they know about their business from it is actually happening.
Ede acknowledged critics might question how much they can actually learn about their business from a tool like Paydar, and said he's already faced a few tough questions during the testing period.
"We were with client the other day and someone asked them, 'How much of this is telling you something you didn't know already?'. And they said the split was about half and half, with one side being stuff they already knew about and the other half being stuff they had no idea about," he said.
Paydar is the latest product to emerge from TRA's innovation hub, TRA Labs, which was earlier this month declared the best innovative programme across Australia and New Zealand at the Australian Financial Review's Most Innovative Companies awards. TRA was also listed as the 28th most innovative company out of a list of more than 1000 nominations.
Ede says TRA has only been able to make the investment in the new product through $15 million in funding gained through Callaghan Innovation.
His aim is to attract a good customer base for the product in the local market, before potentially expanding internationally.