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Meet Plexure: The ‘Internet of Things’ Consultants

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Meet Plexure, the ‘Internet of Things’ advertising consultancy

Source: http://www.plexure.com/plexure-blog/2015/10/welcome-to-the-internet-of-qsr-things

Plexure is an ‘Internet of Things’ advertising consultancy, which helps firms generate and integrate data into their business operations to drive sales and commercial performance.

The ‘Internet of Things’, the data-collecting systems embedded into everyday objects to analyse and improve performance, has enormous scope to improve every kind of business. But while the scope is large, the ability to capture those gains is rarely a part of their core competency. Plexure, an ‘Internet of Things’ advertising consultancy, is a software and systems integration business. Plexure’s business model is to deliver on behalf of clients that core competency.

Business model
Plexure was founded in New Zealand as VMob, a ‘mobile personalisation platform that lets retailers and other customer-facing brands create highly personalised marketing campaigns to reach customers at exactly the right time and place – resulting in much higher conversion rates’. [1] According to CEO Scott Bradley, the rebranding to ‘Plexure’ better encapsulates their multi-faceted value proposition, being derived from the Latin word ‘plexus’, meaning ‘interwoven’. [2] [3] It was done to reduce the scope of the business as being thought of as exclusively mobile focused, and also to open up other commercial possibilities for the kind of data analytics and system capabilities they are currently developing beyond advertising. But thus far, their focus has been on improving retail firms’ sales through targeted advertising.

One example Plexure developed using the Internet of Things was their 7-Eleven Australia fuel app. This mobile app, launched in March 2016, allowed prospective 7-Eleven customers to see where local pumps were, and what all their prices were. If the customer wanted, they could then lock in the lowest local price they found by loading money onto the app and retrieve that price at any 7-Eleven store for the next week. If the price subsequently drops, the consumer pays the lower of the contemporary and locked in price. Consumers tend to like pricing certainty with respect to fuel, and so the idea is that this would drive consumer demand. [4] Results from the September Plexure 2016 review say that in around six months since launch, 2 million liters of fuel have been sold through the app, and 100,000 locks have been redeemed from the 260,000 app downloads in total. [5] The app is still available to download. [6]

Operating model

Plexure’s operating model is in its name: they have to weave together different systems in order to achieve the value for their retail firms. They do this by having what they describe as a wide-range of software development kits for different projects, ‘easily managing customer identity and segmenting promotional activities via a powerful tagging engine’. [7] Plexure deploys Azure Data Lake and SQL Data Warehouse (both Microsoft products) to enable big data storage, processing, and analytics, making sure it all fits into the relevant deployed ‘Internet of Things’ hardware and live data feeds. They use a lot of Microsoft’s cloud-computing infrastructure, including licencing a version of their software through Microsoft’s Appsource. [8] Once deployed, the software has various interfaces to visualise the Internet of Things feeds and enables the retailers to act and adapt to the information which they are receiving, as well as embedding machine learning to respond automatically if the retailers so wish.

Recommendations

One of my main recommendations to Plexure would be to review whether they are building a competency which goes beyond advertising alone, and see whether they can apply some of their skillset to other, more lucrative, opportunities. I believe they are already beginning to do this, as shown by the announcement of their November 2016 partnership with General Electric’s digital energy start-up, Current. [9] Current has a product called Predix, an industrial internet platform which attempts to maximise energy efficiency through data analytics. Plexure and Current are going to provide all encompassing retail consultancy on both operational efficiency and customer relationship management fronts. For example, the collaboration hopes to ‘to pinpoint a customer’s in-store location to within 4 inches, sending optimized content to digital displays and electronic price tags when the customer is right alongside’. [10] Plexure is hoping to generate value for retailers when both analytics traditions are working together.

Plexure, in collaboration with Current, are going to improve each other’s competencies in each sphere, so each party will be spending time thinking about how they can defend their positions. This is my next recommendation: Plexure needs to think very carefully about what is defensible about their business model, and how they can align their operating model to achieve that. (750 words)

[1] ‘Market update – collaboration plans with Microsoft.’  From http://www.plexure.com/investor-news/2016/7/31/market-update-collaboration-plans-with-microsoft

[2] ‘“Plexure” change reflects VMob’s strong U.S. Market growth.’ From http://www.plexure.com/investor-news/2016/7/24/plexure-change-reflects-vmobs-strong-us-market-growth

[3] Mahoney, K. D. (2002). Latin definition for: Plexus, plexa, plexum (ID: 30717) – Latin dictionary and grammar resources – Latdict. From http://latin-dictionary.net/definition/30717/plexus-plexa-plexum

[4]  7ELEVEN fuel App TVC From https://vimeo.com/159409905

[5] Bradley, Scott, ‘CEO Review FY16’, page 10. From https://www.nzx.com/files/attachments/244779.pdf

[6] 7-Eleven Fuel App, from http://www.7eleven.com.au/fuel-app

[7] ‘Plexure launches new solution at Microsoft worldwide partner conference.’ From http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/plexure-launches-new-solution-at-microsoft-worldwide-partner-conference-2141953.htm

[8] Plexure App on Microsoft Appsource, from https://appsource.microsoft.com/en-us/product/azure/plexure.c82dc2fc-817b-487e-ae83-1658c1bc8ff2

[9] ‘Current, powered by GE, welcomes IoT CRM leader Plexure to partner program.’ From http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/current-powered-by-ge-welcomes-iot-crm-leader-plexure-to-partner-program-nyse-ge-2171347.htm

[10] Crow, K. ‘Plexure + GE – connected technology puts customers first.’ From http://www.plexure.com/plexure-blog/2016/11/1/plexure-ge-connected-technology-puts-customers-first

Photo source: http://www.plexure.com/plexure-blog/2015/10/welcome-to-the-internet-of-qsr-things

1 thought on “Meet Plexure: The ‘Internet of Things’ Consultants

  1. Greetings, John. Your recommendation for Plexure to “apply some of their skillset to other, more lucrative, opportunities” is an important step towards diversifying its existing advertising-only product portfolio. If we drill down the “skillset” part, however, it seems that the *only* tangible skillset of Plexure is data intelligence in the forms of data visualization and predictive analytics. That fact that Plexure is merely a data processor rather than a data gatherer/owner may also hinder the growth of this young company. If we take a look at some incumbent in the IoT space, Cisco owns data through its fleet of networking and switching devices, and GE gathers data from the “digital twins” of its physical products. In an era where data is the new oil, is taking huge dependency on other data providers a sustainable strategy for Plexure? In this sense, I would also recommend the company to develop data sourcing and inventory capabilities to reduce dependency on its “partners” (who may well become adversaries in the near future).

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