Welcome to Fintech.xyz news site, we are interviewing Alexandra , the Marketing representative of Universal Reward Protocol (URP), a startup that is revolutionizing the shopping experience by rewarding shoppers sharing their interaction with retail shops
F is Fintech.xyz
A is Alexandra from URP
A : Hi
F: Hi, Nice to meet you at Fintech.xyz, the news site that covers news about the industry, interesting that many french blockchain projects are coming , tell us about your project.
A: thanks, I’m working mostly as content and event manager at Universal Reward Protocol. The project is about providing a unique blockchain-based ecosystem for all retailers to reward their customers for any type of shopping behavior, and for sharing the corresponding Proof-of-Behavior data with the retailer. Retailers offer URP tokens as an incentive for shoppers to interact with them along a desired behavior as well as share the corresponding data, and then use the collected data to tailor personalized offers through which the shoppers redeem their tokens.
F: ok, so basically, people get a reward based on sharing their buy habits
A: Amongst other things. We are not focused only on transactional data, because we consider that the purchase is only a part of the consumer journey, and that many other forms of interactions can be rewarded.
Retail has become omni-channel, and the shopping experience is not only in the point of sale but also on social media, marketplaces and of course on e-commerce websites.
That’s why URP aims to reward any type of shopping behavior, online and offline, including purchasing data, or for visiting a store and sharing their geolocation data, as well as liking a Facebook page and sharing social media activity for instance.
F: and they get reward by installing a program ? or there is a browser plugin too and they get reward from browsing the web ?
A:Shopper can browse campaigns (Rewarding campaign or personalized redeem offer) through the URP mobile or web interface. Retailers and brands can also integrate a plug-in inside their own website or mobile app (sdk).
F: there are no GDPR issues, other data leak issues ?
A : GDPR is a EU regulation that grants individuals rights over their personal data. Among many other things, it requires explicit consent for data collection, the right to withdraw consent and the right to consult and erase all personal data collected and stored off-chain (no personally identifiable data will be stored on the blockchain). URP and every dApp on URP will comply fully with GDPR. Data protection and user privacy is our priority, and one of the main reasons we are implementing URP on blockchain.
Shopper opt-ins are collected through the URP mobile or web interface, for each Campaign (Rewarding campaign or personalized redeem offer), in compliance with regulation. By default, shoppers will have to opt in for every campaign and consent to the collection of data, its duration of storage and the parties who have access to it. In their privacy settings, shoppers will be able to grant blanket opt ins (opt-ins valid for a range of campaigns) to the dApps and retailers they trust.
F: the system will run on which kind of blockchain ? private or public ? is it ethereum ? how many nodes there are ?
A: To ensure full data transparency, we need to develop URP on a public blockchain, Etheureum. URP solves scalability and transaction cost issue, using a fully-pegged sidechain bridged to the Ethereum mainnet (cf technical whitepaper). Campaigns set up by a retailer or brand will be published on blockchain as a URP smart contract. A record of each shopper’s opt-ins to each campaign will be added to the blockchain state.
Each time the smart contract corresponding to a campaign is fulfilled, a hash of the Proof-of-Behavior data is sent to the contract by the dApp, and the Smart Contract representing the campaign releases the reward tokens for the shopper.
No personally identifiable information will be published on-chain.
F: tell us about the team, there are people from top French engineering schools as founders, how they got that idea.
A: Spinning off a research project out of UC Berkeley and Ecole Polytechnique in 2015, the founders behind Universal Reward Protocol, Yves Benchimol and Louis Millon, started building an end-to-end technology solution allowing physical retailers to identify and analyze each visitor’s in-store shopping path, and to interact with them before, during and after their store visit.
Working with some of the leading retailers in the world, including Carrefour and Auchan, the team gained an intimate understanding of the pain points their clients face, the limits of personalized marketing and shopping experience and the frustration this generates for shoppers.
That’s how they imagined Universal Reward Protocol, a blockchain-based protocol that disrupts the world of shopper experience and redefines the relationship between shoppers, retailers and brands. URP’s COO is the former CEO France and Regional Director Europe of Catalina Marketing, world leader in digital couponing, with revenues north of $1B.
The rest of the team has all the necessary skill to developp such a product, including blockchain, data science, software engineering as well as marketing experts. The team is also mentored by retail and blockchain experts including François Poupard, former head of innovation at Auchan, Jeremy Bokobza, lead blockchain engineer at Stratis, and Samuel Baroukh, Chief Digital Officer at Nestlé France.
F: what is the status of the project, is it already launched in beta ?
A: Universal Reward Protocol MVP is set to be released before the beginning of the public sale. The Occi dApp, which allows to reward shoppers for visiting a store, is already working in 100,000 square meters of top retailers space such as Auchan, Carrefour and Galeries Lafayette.
F: The tokens are utility or security tokens, the company is registered in France ?, there is no problems with the regulations? did you submit the project for AMF review, if yes did they approve it ?
A : URP is a utility token. Retailers and brands will distribute URP tokens to reward shoppers based on rules of their own choosing. Shoppers, on the other hand, will redeem these URP tokens in exchange for personalized discounts, gifts or premium services. The URP token will be also used as an incentive for all stakeholders to behave correctly, preventing fraud and securing the network.
There is no regulation in France yet. Universal Reward Protocol Executive team took the lead and met the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF, Financial Market Authority in France) before the ICO to make sure URP abided by the regulation.
AMF is not approving any ICO yet but they are planning to start doing so by the end of the year.
F: how many companies are partnering with the project ?
A : URP, through Occi dApp, is already working with some of the largest retailers/brands worldwide including Carrefour, Auchan, Galeries Lafayette and Nestlé.
We have many other partnerships coming in the next few week that we will announce in our website and telegram channel.
F: Auchan, it’s a big retailer here, they invested in the project ?
A : Auchan is a paid consumer for the in-store geolocation technology. We are working very closely with them and especially with our advisor, François Poupard, former head of innovation at Auchan. Thanks to him, we spent one year in incubation inside a large retail store, giving us the irreplaceable opportunity to build and iterate around the solution by understanding deeply the challenges of store operatives and the real-life constraints of the retail industry.
F: and are you going to expand internationally ?
A: We’re already working with Auchan, Carrefour and Galerie Lafayette. They are all international companies. Auchan is the 2nd largest grocery retailer in France and China, with €44B revenues in 2011. Carrefour is the Biggest French grocery retailer, with €79B in revenues in 2017. Galerie Lafayette is a Leading French department store. The instore geolocation solution is also used by brands like Nestlé (largest food company in the world, with 89,8B CHF in revenues in 2017).
We’d like to leverage our relation with these companies to deploy Universal Reward Protocol globally. And we’re convinced that the retailers we’re working with are going to help us because we’ve built a strong relationship with them.
Beyond that, the vision of Universal Reward Protocol is for a global system engaging shoppers everywhere, and we plan an international expansion starting in 2020.
F: Returning to the business model, you get money from what before launching the project and after launching it ? could you explain all sources ?
A : Before launching the product, we are conducting an ICO to finance the development and the marketing of the solution.
To incentivize and encourage the expansion of the ecosystem of dApps, any dApp connected to the protocol and providing smart contracts with Proof-of-Behavior will take a percentage on any reward distributed based on this Proof-of-Behavior.
Moreover, a percentage of URP token distributed by retailers and brands will be set aside by the protocol, to finance the long-term development of the network and the technology.
F: Ok, and what interested parties will get if they will acquire the tokens?
A :The interested parties are:
Retailers and Brands: They offer URP tokens as an incentive for shoppers to interact along a desired behavior, to try and impact a concrete business KPI such as foot traffic, conversion or brand awareness, and can use the collected data to tailor personalized offers through which the shoppers redeem their tokens.
Shoppers: URP tokens is fungible, which makes it a universal reward, and brings direct value to shoppers who are currently saturated with retailer-specific captive rewards. Shoppers can redeem these URP tokens in exchange for discounts, gifts or premium services.
dApps: Any dApp/oracle wishing to connect to the protocol and to provide smart contracts with Proof-of-Behavior will put a URP stake as collateral, which will be lost in case the oracle is unable to confirm the origin of the Proof-of-Behavior. This protects the network from hostile dApps trying to have a Reward Contract release tokens to an address that hasn’t fulfilled the targeted behavior. URP has an ambitious roadmap from both a technical and a business point of view. We intend to stick to this roadmap, which will show buyers that the protocol is on track for a launch in 2019, and should give them an incentive to hold the tokens. After the launch, the utility of the URP token will only increase as more and more retailers, brands and shoppers join the protocol.
F: Are you going to an incubator / Accelerator ? what are your money raising plans in addition to the ICO
A: As mentioned, we spent one year in incubation inside a large retail store from Auchan. We also worked with Polytechnique and UC Berkeley.
We were also incubated by one of the famous incubator in France, Agoranov, in 2016 and 2017. We don’t plan additional fund raising after the ICO, as the raised funds should be enough to allow us to launch and scale the protocol.
F: ok, what kind of retailers can start to work with you, is it only for big retail chains ? what industries are the most interesting for you ?
Any retailers and brands can join the URP Network, without asking permission to anyone. This is what we call decentralisation. We expect that those who will have the most value are omni-channel retailer, with several contact point (brick-and-mortar store, e-commerce website, social media activity…).
Besides retailers, brands (such as Nestlé, Nike, Phillips, etc.) are also showing interest in the system as it provides them with a direct channel to offer personalized promotions to shoppers.
F: Who are your competitors, could you cite other blockchain projects that can compete with yours ?
A: Universal Reward Protocol is sometimes compared to a loyalty program. But universal Reward Protocol is not a loyalty program. URP’s ambition is to become the common decentralized infrastructure for rewarding all interactions between shoppers and retailers or brands. Generally speaking, loyalty programs only focuses on purchases to retain existing customers. Earned points can then be, for instance, redeemed through generic offers. URP has a broader reach. It provides retailers with the opportunity to reward any behavior they deem relevant to either better target existing customers or attract new ones. Earned tokens can be redeemed through tailor-made offers designed to meet the shopper’s needs based on collected data, with all retailers or brands in the network.
Universal Reward Protocol is competing with traditional rewarding programs applications like Shopkick and analytics solutions made for retailers like RetailNext. We are also compared to Nucleus.Vision. Its product enables retailers to reward shoppers who visited their store and shared data with the store manager. Universal Reward Protocol is different by nature. It’s a rewarding protocol while Nucleus Vision is a dApp.
F: ok, thank you for these responses, where our readers could read more about the Project and the list of social media handles?
A: They can read more about the Project on the website : https://rewardprotocol.com
In our white paper : https://rewardprotocol.com/wp-content/uploads/URP_Whitepaper-2.pdf
and we’re on many social media :
- Twitter : https://twitter.com/RewardProtocol
- Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCecaT5v_xswtmT1xOb3ZjdQ
- LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/company/reward-protocol/
- Reddit : https://www.reddit.com/r/RewardProtocol/
- Telegram : https://t.me/joinchat/ICmgtwtexthuhHnT6kyEdw
F: great, thank you for responses, bye.
F: Disclaimer Fintech.xyz is not advising you to invest in any company or project.