Ecommerce merchants strive for repeat business from existing customers. We recently spoke with Dr. Alex Heiphetz, owner of AHG, a company that has produced a mobile app, based on QR codes, to encourage repeat orders. The mobile app is QRwave.
Practical Ecommerce: What exactly is a QR code?
Dr. Alex Heiphetz: "QR code is an abbreviation of 'quick response' code. It was invented in Japan by Toyota in 1994. At that time, Toyota was using regular barcodes to track all the parts, all the details, and the vehicles during the manufacturing process. By mid 1994 they were running out of capacities of barcodes. There were way too many parts and way too many details. For the designers of what became the QR code, there were two major considerations: (1) The new code system should be able to contain much more information than a regular barcode; (2) This new system must be decoded at a high speed.
"Today you will find QR codes way outside Toyota. They are used in a very wide range of applications including manufacturing, shipping, entertainment, in marketing, and even as a tool that allows you to turn your phone into a payment instrument, like credit card."
PEC: Your company has developed a QR code application called QRwave. Describe that application to us, and how it applies to our audience of mainly smaller ecommerce merchants.
Heiphetz: "QRwave is a mobile commerce app based on QR codes. QRwave takes mobile commerce to the next level. With QRwave, your customers do not need to be in front of the computer to place an order. QRwave allows them to place an order by simply scanning through the smartphone and entering a quantity. That's it.
"Let's say I need to submit an order for a box of bolts. I have all the bolts in front of me, I take my phone from my pocket, I scan the QR code that was imprinted on the box, I enter how many boxes I need and that's it. The order is submitted. Everything is done."
PEC: So is it fair to say that merchants that sell recurring items would benefit most from using your application?
Heiphetz: "QRwave is fantastic for recurring orders. Say an employee fills an order and he notices that we have only one container left of material. In the normal scenario, the employee will make a mental note to tell somebody that they need to order more of this item and hopefully he won't forget it later. With QRwave a simple scan over that box will ensure that you do not run out of this item and you keep the customers happy and your cash flow is alright."
PEC: Let's say I sell coffee beans online and my customers buy from me once a month on average. So if my customers had QRwave on their phones, would they just scan the QR code on my coffee bean package and that would automatically submit a new order to me without them having to sit down in front of their computer?
Heiphetz: "That's correct. At the same time, it means that QRwave helps ensure customer loyalty. You keep me as customer not only because you provide a great product, but also because it's extremely convenient for me to order from you, much easier than from the thousands of other merchants that sell coffee beans.
"Plus, you can use space near the QR code that I use for ordering to place a different QR code. For example a sale, or perhaps you want to experiment with juices and teas — you can place your codes near the regular QR code and see. Just test run and see what kind of response you get."
PEC: How does it sync into the existing fulfillment and accounting processes that merchants may already have in place?
Heiphetz: "QRwave is designed to easily integrate into practically any ecommerce system. Whatever you decide to do — whatever your ordering system is, QRwave will fit right in. If it needs custom features or you might need help with integration, we'll be happy to do it as well."
PEC: Walk us through the process for a merchant to set that up. Is there an online interface that a merchant goes to?
Heiphetz: "Yes and no. We will need to discuss with you if you decide to purchase the system from us, you need to tell us 'I want this, and that' and we will tell you okay. Then we will set up your system in that manner. We need to know ahead of time for your specific situation."
PEC: How much does all this cost?
Heiphetz: "A standard system costs $300 to set up and then it is $100 per month for up to 2,000 products. So if you're a small to medium-sized merchant, that probably will cover all the products you have. This includes your access to online interface where you can create the QR codes. It includes an unlimited number of licenses for mobile phones. So as many of your employees as you want can download the app to use the system."
PEC: How long does it take to get a merchant set up?
Heiphetz: "In simple cases, probably one to two days. But if you have a rather complicated system, it will probably take longer for us to integrate and test."
PEC: Tell us a little bit about AHG. Where is it located, who owns it, when founded, that sort of thing.
Heiphetz: "We have been in business since 1994 and if my math is correct, that means that this September, we will be celebrating our 18th anniversary. So it means we are getting into adulthood as a company. We are a small company with 5 fulltime employees, across the street from Penn State University. We have access to a pool of young, very talented, very hungry and very willing-to-learn young people whom we are happy to employ as interns or on a part-time basis."
PEC: Are you the owner?
Heiphetz: "Yes. I am the major stakeholder."
PEC: Where do readers go to learn more about QRwave?
Heiphetz: "They can go to AHG.com. There is a link to this application, or you can go there directly to Qrwave.ahg.com. Or, if your readers have questions, we will be happy to answer them if they call 814-867-3200."