Brisbane marketing startup Norbit raises $400,000 to help lure customers back to bricks-and-mortar retail stores

Norbit co-founder Gerry Mezzina

Norbit co-founder Gerry Mezzina. Source: Supplied

Brisbane-based marketing tech startup Norbit has raised $400,000 in seed funding to take its retail loyalty app nationwide and help more retailers keep customers coming through their doors.

The injection of funds has come from McVay Real Estate’s Sam McVay and Premium Funding’s Hayward Family, and Norbit co-founder Gerry Mezzina says the funding will allow the startup to bolster the number of features in the app, while also take it beyond Queensland’s borders.

Mezzina launched the platform in 2015, having built it as a product within Follow digital agency, where Mezzina is general manager.

The app was developed as a way to address the growing need for retailers to generate authentic customer loyalty. By leveraging aspects of the customer’s experience in bricks-and-mortar stores in an engaging and gamified way, Norbit allows retailers to attract, reward and retain customers from within the platform.

“We worked with shopping centres for five years and saw the foot traffic decreasing,” Mezzina tells StartupSmart, noting he was observing more and more people “shopping online rather than going in to a shopping centre.”

Mezzina believes “people were expecting a bit more from the shopping centre experience,” which is why Norbit features built-in augmented reality features, which have already been run in a campaign with Queensland Rugby League that saw players brought to life through the app. 

“It allows us to give kids and parents the opportunity to experience something different,” he says.

The startup draws on consumer’s growing interest in reward programs, with Australian consumers 80% more likely to buy from a company whose program they are a member of, according to Norbit.

The startup’s  white-labelled app is currently in use in eight Queensland shopping centres, and boasts 30,000 users. Those users will get access to a “whole suite of new features”, as a result of the seed funding, says Mezzina. These may even eventually involve the use of  artificial intelligence so the app can display retail recommendations to customers based on algorithmic-learning.

While currently only Queensland-based, Norbit has plans to roll-out the app to the rest of Australia and New Zealand, while a future international expansion is also on the cards.

Mezzina says Norbit has been “receiving a lot of enquiries and having discussions with African [retail] chains”, with the continent seeing huge growth in smartphone usage in recent years, while South East Asia is also a potential future market for expansion.

Have runs on the board

Mezzina’s experience working in marketing at Follow meant Norbit “already had runs on the board and ongoing contracts” when it came time to raise seed funding, says the entrepreneur.

“We had developed, tested and had a scaleable business model, which made raising seed funding much simpler,” Mezzina says, emphasising the importance of having “products in place” and solid growth metrics to show investors when looking to raise.

For Mezzina, the crucial aspect of raising funding “wasn’t the capital — it was finding the right partners,”.

He suggests startups should look for strategic investors that can help grow the business in the future, rather than just injections of capital.

“We wanted partners who believed in the team and gave us flexibility to grow the product as we saw fit,” he says.

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4 years ago

This is ridiculous. Starting a business with a crowd funded source might be very alluring, but anyone can lose money-it takes genuine understanding of the market to actually make a profit.
People like service, they also like the advantage of ordering and getting good value from their own home. Retail shops are being used to inspect and evaluate products, then the savvy shopper goes online and gets the best deal!
2017 guys, it is up to retailers to market their goods like it is today, not how they romantically wish it was.