#9: Creating Solutions Through Innovative Service – Wayne Hilmer

On the ninth episode of the 1 to 10 podcast, we sat down with Wayne Hilmer, Founder and Chairman at Touchrate.

Episode Overview

Think about your last great idea.

There are a million reasons why ideas are never fully realized.

Lack of experience.
No access to resources.
Far too expensive.

But Wayne J. Hilmer Sr., Founder and Chairman at Touchrate, has a different story.

Touchscreens are all over the place now. Our first inclination seeing a screen light up without noticing a keyboard is to touch it. But in 2009, the iPad wasn’t out yet and using touch screens in common practical applications was only beginning.

With roots in the innovative aviation world, Wayne brings with him 45 years of experience in entrepreneurship, start-ups, marketing, financial services, and more!

I had the opportunity to sit down with Wayne and ask him what it was that made the difference in getting Touchrate moving.

What You Need

The ideas Wayne and his team had were fantastic, but they were still only ideas. It would take something more to catalyze the innovative thoughts into a reality.

“You can sit there in your own head,” Wayne says, “And we tried to do this at the beginning.”

This idea – of having touch screens utilized for surveying customers – was almost there. They had meetings with a number of big companies that could have changed the scale of their business.

It was Walmart that stepped up with great interest in their product, but they weren’t interested in surveys.

“You can’t develop a solution unless you have content.”

 

Walmart wanted an interactive touch screen end cap that customers could use to make an informed buying decision.

With technology being primarily company focused, Walmart was looking at customer needs even then. Wayne’s design and Walmart’s foresite ended up being a fantastic match.

The touch screen end caps Walmart wanted would run 24/7, never be dark, and never require an employee to touch them.

Wayne and his team rose to the challenge, and in return Walmart gave them thousands of stores, millions of customers, and access to leadership. They pushed their brands and suppliers in Wayne’s direction, which provided all the content they would need.

“Without Walmart we wouldn’t be doing what we were doing today,” Wayne admits.

The Power of the Pivot

Even as I spoke with Wayne, the reality of Sears closing its doors after 132 years of business reminds me of what happens when even the largest businesses fail to adapt with advances in technology and customer base interactions.

Wayne notes that Best Buy, who was on the brink of a major problem in the wake of Amazon’s great awakening, altered their path by bringing the brands into their stores to compete.

This adaptation is a major reason why the store is still open. Similarly, companies like Nordstrom and Home Depot have been focusing on the customer for years and have seen some life breathed back into their brands.

“When new technology comes out, we’re always trying to figure out how we can best use it.”

 

“We’ve got to be able to develop something that works at a price that gives a return on investment,” Wayne says. The best way to do this is by knowing what’s coming down the pike.

And being flexible and knowing when and where to move shouldn’t just be a business-saving tactic. It should be proactive.

Touchrate has gone to great lengths to design, develop, and deploy all in house.
They read a great deal, attend tech conferences, and enjoy the challenge that competition brings. It keeps them sharp and ready to make changes to maintain momentum.

“We knew what the challenges were, and as a result out of those challenges came the architecture.”

Customercentric Motivation

Helping customers make informed buying decisions is the new frontier. When a mouse click will send a product to your doorstep, the growing online market can more than adequately meet material needs.

The question has shifted from where to get something to which thing should be gotten.

Amazon has put so much pressure on retailers that the retailers are looking and have more of an appetite for providing a better customers experience.

“The brands will spend the money to sell their products in store.”

 

It’s through the customers that we anticipate the changes that are coming.

“Brands are reassessing their advertising and marketing budgets, and they’re taking money out of those budgets and putting it in front of the customer at the time of conversion – the point of sale,” Wayne informs me, “They’re extending the marketing pitch and making it easy for them to do it.”

This is where Touchrate’s technology has found its home – in meeting customer needs in ways that even brand websites cannot.

Two or three touches based on a few questions take a consumer to the desired information. Moreover, the brand itself is able to provide the information, so the customer is engaged, informed, and prepared.

“It’s obvious that what we do for the customer experience is something that’s needed in retail,” Wayne says, “When you apply an increase in sales to a billion dollars in volume, that’s a big number. It’s pretty easy to get an ROI out of that.”

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This post is based on an interview with Wayne Hilmer from Touchrate.

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