#press article

Hashing shatters the traditional retail promotions paradox
A goldmine of retail insights
With their mobile couponing platform, Hashting is shaking up the world of consumer retail promotions. In the short term this leads to a win-win situation for the consumer, the brand and the retailer. And in the long term the data that it unearths provides a rich seam of hitherto unidentified insights – even if it exposes the brands’ activation weakness and bottlenecks in the first instance – Elien Haentjens.
Whilst the need for higher ROI in the corporate world becomes more and more important they often have little or no control over their own consumer promotions. Furthermore, it is often challenging for brands to have any influence or control over what happens in stores because they are so reliant on independent distributors and retailers, which means that circa 50% of all promotions are failing already even before it has a chance to engage consumers. “There are many moments in the lifecycle of promotions where they fail. Sometimes it is because the promotion isn’t clearly communicated to the consumer and other times they are taken off the shop floor too soon. In other instances, the retailer themselves don’t put enough effort into displaying the promotional materials properly and in some cases the promo materials are languishing in the field sales teams’ car boot and never reach the retailers” according to Karl De Beul.
“These issues are clearly demonstrated with the brand Omnibionta. In 2015, they did a round of mystery shopping in thousands of participating pharmacies and it showed that after 2 weeks only 7% of the retailers still had the specifically created POS display up. If you think that POS displays easily cost 40 Euros a piece then you realise what a monumental waste of budget it is. When we did the same campaign in 2016, but this time with our specifically created Hashting code added to the campaign, the number of displays still up after 6 weeks had significantly increased to 55%. In 2017, we optimised the campaign even further and increased the display rate to 60% and drove 70% more coupons than the previous year” says Bart Baeyens.
Both Karl De Beul and Bart Baeyens earned their stripes in the FMCG category at blue-chip multinational companies such as Unilever, Henkel and Danone.
From their experience, they created Hashting - a portmanteau of Hashtag and Couponing – whereby the sending of an SMS text message or the use of a hashtag provides the user with an instantly redeemable coupon or discount.
“Our initial goal was to give brands a tool to create their own targeted promotional campaigns. That’s why we created a platform whereby consumers can request an instant coupon in-store by sending an SMS text message or use Facebook Messenger to send a displayed code and instantly receive a reply with the discount coupon. They don’t have to register themselves or download an App. Although, of course, the retailer could use technology like NFC we have consciously decided to keep the barriers as low as possible and that’s how we can easily reach 8 million Belgians” Explains De Beul.
“Due to the ease of the system the consumer can immediately enjoy the discount and the retailer can increase their sales by pointing the consumer to the discount opportunity. Only those retailers who are dynamic and engaged will survive in the long-term and are interesting for the brands because they drive an increase in sales.
Although we originally designed Hashting as a B2C tool we are finding that the B2B market is well served too. With the help of the incentives that Hashting creates the relationship between the brand and the retailer becomes more aligned and they collaboratively have a better chance to win over the consumer.”
Two Faces
Although the data that the consumer campaigns provides isn’t used for further marketing communication it does provide valuable information and insights into what is actually happening in the shops.
“Even though the general data provided by retailers is much better than it used to be, most brands actually don’t know what happens to their products or promotional campaigns at independent stores. They don’t know which shops are activating well and therefore worth investing in, and which ones actually have no interest in their promotional campaigns” says Baeyens. “Hashting provides a radical change to this way of thinking as it provides real-time data and measurement on the efficiency or inefficiency of how the campaign is doing in the field. So, the coupon has become a vehicle that shows what is actually happening in the market much better even though this often leads to painful revelations.
An example is Perrier Belgium where they recognised that the field sales teams needed to be steered to much better performing retailers as one of the best performing stores provided over 350 coupons in a month and the worst performers 2 at best! “
“Even ABInbev were shocked when they realised that in their national Happy Hour campaign only 900 of the supposedly 4,000 participating bars activated bars actually activated the campaign, which means that the remaining bars had unnecessary promotional materials – and therefore budgets – spent on them”. Tells De Beul.
The positive insights gleaned form this was that one of the bars on the coast performed extremely well – even though it wasn’t even on the radar of the head office in Leuven. Hashting therefore provides the possibility to quickly discern between the dynamic and engaged stores and those who just waste the brands time and money” adds Baeyens.
Due to this organic evolution Hashting really plays 2 roles.
On the one hand is the consumer facing coupon campaigns for which the company charges 15 Euro per retailer. “As part of the service we provide the data and trends and make sure that the retailers are financially compensated or given free products. They can view their performance and credit note on our platform dashboard or via our weekly email update. Next to that more and more of our clients are engaging with us to assist them in devising the best possible in-store promotions for targeted retailers due to our expertise in this area. By working with us they can increase their ROI by 100% - where nowadays it already deemed a success if they increase it by a few percentage points” confirms De Beul.
Unbridled Growth
Even though Hashting was officially born on 1st January 2015 it was already profitable by 2016.
“In our first year we received a financial subsidy from Vlaio as well as mentoring and assistance from Bert Reekmans. At the time we were the most disruptive start-up of all” according to the duo.  
“It also reflects the company itself because we financed the start personally, had no office space and apart from ourselves we only have 1 other employee who is responsible for the IT infrastructure and developing of the platform. From our experience in the behemoths of the corporate world it is our intention to keep ourselves as small and nimble for as long as possible”
Hashting is now active in 10 countries and is with the help of the FNYA-programme (run by the Flemish government) about to embark on launching in America.
“What we have noticed most of all is that globally our clients have more challenges in common than they have differences, despite the different market conditions. That’s why North America remains so important to us despite the relative strength of major retail chains in that market. But conversely growth markets like South America and Africa are really interesting because they have a very fractured and independent retail environment, are ambitious and enjoy a high penetration of mobile phones.” Explains Baeyens.
“To facilitate the international roll-out we have secured more capital and our existing international partners have contributed more than 700,000 Euros in investment. For our partners, we are always looking for local entrepreneurs who views Hashting as their own company and want to deliver the best campaigns in their home markets. In return we provide the patented Hashting platform and we share case studies and business development opportunities.
The actual on-boarding process takes less than one hour!”
The possibilities for Hashting seems endless.
“In the long-term we can provide personalised promotions and discounts to the consumer, thereby furthering the consumer user experience and journey – of course with their explicit permission. Or we can drive even better and more innovative promotions for our clients to further strengthen their brand image, for example a 1+1 promotion for Ola ice-cream but only when it rains! Or provide a free beer to football fans when the National team wins” explains Baeyens.
“We are looking to grow both the vertical as well as the tactical trade and can confidently say that with the use of the measurable and accountable Hashting platform there is no longer the opportunity for fraud” finishes De Beul.