Overwhelming Interest in an Innovative Vending Machine Program
Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene, CEO of PopCom, has a long history of entrepreneurship, having successfully launched four cash-flow positive companies since 2002.
But when she launched Flat Out Heels, a company that markets shoes by vending machine, she uncovered a problem: she couldn’t find a vending machine that could give her the data she needed to engage and interact with her customers.
As a black woman business owner and experienced entrepreneur, Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene is fearless in meeting challenges head on—and so this technology gap inspired her to develop and launch PopCom.
PopCom is the world’s first vending machine to use facial recognition and AI to collect customer data. Designed to handle a range of product sizes and shapes, it gives brands the ability to launch promotions, change prices and monitor sales performance remotely and in real time.
Dawn started offering this next-generation vending machine to brands but soon found they struggled to find affordable locations. Malls can charge anywhere between $800 to $5,000 to put in a vending machine, and that’s a lot for brands just starting out.
In response, Natasia Malaihollo, Head of Business Development at PopCom, came up with the idea for PopShop Local.
Instead of leaving brands with the burden of finding locations for PopCom vending machines, PopShop Local secures locations in advance by negotiating directly with malls, airports, hotels and other public spaces. All brands have to do is apply and indicate their preferred retail locations.
The PopShop Local program proved very popular. Many brands applied to participate, and Dawn and her team were quickly overwhelmed with applications.
“Our sales team is very small,” says Natasia. “In contacting and vetting every lead, we hardly had any time left to do our actual jobs.”
Scheduling meetings with applicants was particularly time consuming.
“We would have to email back and forth five or six times to arrange a meeting,” says Natasia. “After the meeting, we’d often conclude that the lead wasn’t a good fit. So we would have spent hours on a lead that didn’t convert.”
And so Dawn and Natasia started looking for ways to speed up the application and make it more efficient.
Automating Application Processing with the HubSpot CRM Platform
Dawn and Natasia chose the HubSpot CRM platform to manage their PopShop Local application process, setting up automated workflows for greater efficiency and improved customer experience.
Pre-qualifying applicants with an online application form
Today, brands apply to join the PopShop Local program by completing a form on the PopCom website, which provides the first level of screening.
The form collects a variety of information, such as type of products, product pricing and cities where applicants would like to sell their products.
“The questions help applicants self-qualify,” says Natasia. “So, for example, if they don’t have a market-ready product with a couple months of inventory, they’re not a good fit, at least for now.”
As a result, PopCom has seen a significant drop in the number of unqualified applicants.
“Two weeks ago, for example, we had 1700 people on the PopShop Local partner form, but less than 100 people applied,” says Natasia. “Before, we would have had to manually respond to every email inquiry. The form helps us screen unqualified applicants.”
Once COVID-19 hit, demand for self-service retail applications went through the roof.
“Many entrepreneurs were just launching their brands when COVID-19 hit. All of the sudden, their plans to get their product out to the public fell through. But with PopShop Local, these brands could reach new markets in new cities in a much less capital-intensive way. As a result, we had a flood of applications that we couldn’t have managed without automation.”
Using workflow automation
Automation is used to move applicants from one stage to the next, sending personalized communications that are triggered at every point.
“As they move along in their journey, applicants are sent emails to update them on the status of their application, for example,” says Natasia. “It’s all done automatically, yet they still feel like they’re coming from an actual person.”
These workflow automations have also shortened the sales process.
“When our sales team jumps on a call with a lead today, they know the applicant is very likely to buy,” says Natasia. “Today, we get to that point in one meeting versus multiple meetings and multiple emails. It has really sped up our closing time.”
Zoom integrations to speed up scheduling
With the HubSpot CRM platform, the team no longer has to email applicants back and forth to set up phone calls.
Instead, Natasia and her team use Zoom and calendar integrations within HubSpot to schedule follow ups. Calendar invites are sent automatically along with other information the applicant needs in advance of the meeting.
Businesses that do not qualify through the initial application process are added to a nurturing workflow that routes them according to where they are in the lead stage.
They also use automation to subscribe unqualified applicants to the PopCom newsletter, which keeps them engaged and up to date on company news.
Sharing data with investors
The data that PopCom is capturing from the HubSpot CRM platform has had the unforeseen benefit of helping Dawn with fundraising by giving her powerful analytics she can present to investors.
“At any given time, Dawn can identify trends, understand our customers and share important metrics,” says Natasia. “With that information, Dawn was able to raise another $2 million in funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Saving 15 Hours Every Week with HubSpot
With the automation that the HubSpot CRM platform provides, Natasia is saving on average 15 hours every week in managing the PopShop Local application process.
Today, about 80% of the leads coming through their website are qualified, up 33% from when they didn’t have a form in place.
Automation has also shortened the time needed to close deals and lowered customer acquisition costs.
Both Dawn and Natasia couldn’t be happier that they chose the HubSpot CRM platform.
“Our sales and marketing processes have definitely become more efficient with HubSpot,” says Natasia. “They’ve allowed us to focus on critical tasks that really require our attention—and use HubSpot to do everything else.”