How Upside will power the future of brick and mortar commerce

Upside exists to advance the economic power of people living and working in the real world. Here’s our plan to do it.

September 12, 2023
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How Upside will power the future of brick and mortar commerce
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How Upside will power the future of brick and mortar commerce

Commerce between people and businesses is one of the most fundamental parts of our everyday lives. Each of us buys and sells on a regular basis, whether it’s a morning coffee or a car for our family. 

As familiar as we are with commerce in the real world, its inefficiency is a surprise to many of us. Today, brick and mortar retailers use anything from intensive batch analyses to approximated pattern mapping to create the best customer experience, and to determine their markup on any given item. In turn, consumers either accept what’s on the price tag or shop around for the best price or experience. Each one of us is trying to maximize the value we get from every transaction, but when it comes down to these approximations, one party always loses out. 

Online commerce has already figured this out: real time, user-level personalization and measurement maximizes value for everyone involved. At Upside, we believe there shouldn't be such a dramatic value trade-off between the people buying and selling in the real world. We estimate that that trade-off translates to more than $640 billion in lost value each year in the U.S.

That’s why Upside is tackling the inefficiencies in brick and mortar commerce. When we find and deliver the unrealized value between buyer and seller, each gets more and we create more value for the entire ecosystem.  

Upside is well on the path to make this happen for brick and mortar businesses everywhere, and over the last year we’ve continued to refine our approach. Through this refinement, we’ve evolved our product and our brand identity to reinforce who we are and what we do. 

We exist to advance the economic power of people living and working in the real world.

Here’s our plan to do it.

Our journey to transform brick and mortar commerce started in fuel, because its pricing is simpler to personalize and almost everyone buys it. We’ve used the Upside app to find and connect consumers looking for more purchasing power with nearby fuel retailers with idle capacity on-site. Our personalized cash back promotions adjust in real-time, giving consumers 2-3x more value than they would get with any other product, and driving new, incremental profit to retailers to grow their business. 

That success allowed us to expand into restaurants and grocery stores, and since 2016 we’ve become the largest food and fuel network in the United States. More than $5 billion in commerce runs through the Upside platform every year, and the value we’ve created to date translates to: 

All of our results are made possible by AI-driven personalization and strict measurement. The platform measurably changes consumer behavior, and precisely isolates our impact so that retailers earn bottom-line profit and not just revenue. This type of measurement is the norm for online marketplaces, but it is new to brick and mortar commerce and unlocks new opportunities for the Upside platform.

As I described last year following our Series D fundraising round, the best way to accelerate our impact is to improve our product, launch in new categories, and bring new users into the fold.

  • New product experiences. We announced today that soon users will be able to pay for their purchases right in the Upside app for immediate cash back, which helps retailers, too, because it puts more of their spare capacity to work. In the coming months, you’ll see announcements about co-branded apps for retailers, opportunities that drive membership and activity for retailer’s loyalty programs, item-level offers that enable product-level discovery for users and can triple sales in retailers’ target categories, and omni-channel options that support retailers’ online, in-store, pickup, and delivery sales. 
  • New categories. Our goal is to become a digital layer that makes all brick and mortar commerce more economically efficient. In the last year we’ve doubled our retailer inventory to include 100,000 retailers on the Upside platform. Now we’re actively expanding into categories outside of fuel, restaurant, and grocery, and have dedicated resources towards that expansion. This gives users the opportunity to earn cash back at more places, and dramatically amplifies the halo effect of our marketplace for retailers. 
  • Partnerships. Strategic marketing and tech partnerships have drastically increased the number of consumers with access to Upside offers. Different tech platforms, apps, and experiences – like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, and more – have opted to co-market Upside offers to their customers, and even provide Upside’s personalized offers inside their own app environments. A number of Fintech and banking applications – from the largest consumer banks to rapidly-scaling challenger banks – have also opted to integrate Upside offers into their rewards programs for millions of cardholders. We continue to pursue these partnership opportunities, because they provide more value to more users, and allow retailers to gain access to more consumers at no additional cost to their business.  

We’ve gone from making each transaction more efficient in Step 1, to making transactions more efficient in more places in Step 2. From there, if we want to impact the brick and mortar experience on the whole, that increased efficiency needs to carry through into the real world. That is when brick and mortar commerce will truly be able to compete with online commerce in terms of value and experience. 

Imagine trying on jeans in your favorite clothing store and receiving a digital offer for a second pair at half price. Or receiving a notification while shopping at your regular grocery store saying the avocados in Aisle 2 are perfectly ripe and, since they will be too soft to sell tomorrow, you can get as many as you want right now for half price. Or impressing your date at a restaurant when the chef comes out to welcome you and review the menu because the Upside app told staff it’s your first time there. Or pulling into the gas station when it is freezing cold outside and having the manager come out to pump your gas because our app told him you’re a regular. 

Once launched out of alpha, these features will give retailers a better idea of who is walking into their stores — without compromising customer privacy — to help them digitally tailor their customers’ experiences, just like they would online. 

When taken together, the steps Upside is taking will help ensure that the people and businesses involved in real-world commerce are here for the long haul. People have more purchasing power, businesses earn more profit, and we all do our part to preserve the planet.  

How Upside will power the future of brick and mortar commerce

Alex Kinnier

Linkedin - Upside

As co-founder and CEO of Upside, Alex Kinnier is working to transform brick-and-mortar commerce. His success in growing Upside into a company driving $5B+ in commerce annually was informed by his years of experience leading product development teams at Opower, Google, and Procter & Gamble. Outside the office, Alex is an ardent technologist and investor, always on the cutting edge of products with the potential to change the world.

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