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A new blockchain-based platform called Shping has launched its own cryptocurrency to help food and beverage brands build much deeper consumer engagement.

An $8.6 million tokensale effort has helped the blockchain tech company launch its new food brand engagement platform in Australia.

Called Shping, the platform links consumers with brand information, bridging the gap between pre-shop research and in-store purchase, according to head of sales Joel Stevenson.

He says the company has successfully tapped into blockchain technology to drive a new way of connecting consumers with detailed information about brands – and rewarding them for their interest.

The company issued its own cryptocurrency, in March this year, and was able to launch the brand in Australia with the $8.6 million raised.

Consumers scan a standard barcode to find a wealth of information about products, read reviews, earn cryptocurrency rewards and share their own experiences.

“Its essentially pooling all available content on any particular product from offline and online and putting it in the palm of the consumer’s hand whilst they are in-store shopping,” Stevenson says.

“Users will be able to find all the information they previously sought on disparate sites within one app.”

With Shping’s analytics, food companies can build a ‘Single Customer View’ for each member of their audience, which includes data on who they are, which brands they love, where and when they’re scanning products, and what else is in their consideration set.

“The Shping app allows brands to reward consumers directly for engaging with their product content through a simple barcode scan off their mobile device in-store – so companies can influence the buying decision in the critical final buying phase, ” Stevenson says.

“It’s a permission-based approach that allows them to digest content and get rewarded for that directly, with cryptocurrency as the incentive.”

Stevenson says research shows in the Australian landscape 36 per cent of consumers are are open to receiving cryptocurrency rewards instead of points, especially in the millennials segment where this percentage rises to 56 per cent.

Brands have just started to come on board as foundation customers – there are 24 brand partners so far – and Stevenson’s pushing to drive downloads higher and higher. The number of users currently stands at close to 50,000.

The story so far

The brand’s parent company, AuthenticateIT, started eight years ago when founder Gennady Volchek launched its smartphone app and farm to fork traceability platform in partnership with GS1.

Not unlike Shping, AuthenticateIT offers specifics of ingredients and their origins; date and place of manufacture, date of delivery, and ‘best if used by’ date.

It continues to run in Australia, Singapore, China and Russia, and led Volchek to the idea of marketing to consumers through the scanning of barcodes.

“He essentially added marketing to the platform, and industry-specific cryptocurrency,” Stevenson says.

“The crypto is a great carrot dangling in front of consumers to participate, watch videos, write reviews, upload photos of product – and the more they participate with the app, the more cryptocurrency they can earn.”

Notably, Shping, the brand of AuthenticateIT, also offers a strong vehicle for policing brands and retailers using the certified organic stamp.

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“Some products and brands are using the stamp before they are fully registered, so this will be a way of giving consumers accurate information,” he says.

So far, Shping has partnered with Australian Certified Organic, AsureQuality (owned by the New Zealand Government), The National Farmer’s Federation of Australia and The Asia Food Safety Zone in Changchun, China.

The ICO conversation started mid-last year after Volchek presented to different organisations and received conceptual buy-in.

“Gennady went on a world tour where he presented at a number of the major marketing, blockchain and cryptocurrency events around the world,” Stevenson says.

Brands buy the Shping coin to reward consumers who scan, watch a video, engage with the brand, and then link to Facebook, for example – and as brands come on board with richer content, they are paying to fulfil that interaction with the consumer.

“They are buying engagement, but they are not paying a big media company like Facebook or Google for that engagement – they are rewarding the consumer directly,” he says. 

The nuts and bolts

The app is a modular platform that allows companies to pick and choose from a range of features.

If brand protection is a concern, for instance, brands can track all electronic product code information services (EPCIS) events, and track the product through its chain of custody.

Another key offering is the global product database which allows brands to enter detailed product information into Shping’s database, which is then accessible to consumers and stakeholders. This marketing feature allows brands to directly reward consumers for accessing their product information and engaging with the brand via reviews, videos or social media.

The product authentication feature allows customers to verify the authenticity of a product and confirm its location, which in turn enables brands to identify anomalies in the supply chain.

Raw material traceability enables manufacturers to track their stock of raw materials, and provide data structures linking the use of specific raw materials to their products, giving a granular understanding of a product’s composition.

Product recall management helps brands to identify if a product has any components for which a recall has been issued and alert consumers if a given product is under recall as soon as they scan the product, or if they have scanned the product previously.

Shping also allows brands to sell extended warranties on the Shping platform, and consumers now have visibility of the location of products in the supply chain, enabling brands to quickly pinpoint items down to the saleable unit and activate product recalls.

Brands can also use the new serialisation protocols to offer information about a product down to the saleable unit, allowing promotions, stock replenishment, and small-batch recalls on specific products in certain locations.

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