Merchant Warehouse: A Case of Ingenious Application

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The Boston-based Merchant Warehouse, founded in 1998, is a company that provides payment technologies and merchant account services. "Our customers range from a food truck that might want to accept credit cards on their phone to large retail chains," explains Jenn Reichenbacher, Merchant Warehouse's senior director of corporate marketing.


When Merchant Warehouse launched its Genius Customer Engagement Platform-which "supports mobile commerce and traditional payments on the merchant countertop from a single customer engagement device," according to its website-the company was looking for "a glossy, high-end PowerPoint that we wanted to do for presentation decks" that could be used as a sales tool, says Reichenbacher.

"We wanted something really professionally done that reflected the technology in terms of its scalability, flexibility, and its ability to kind of evolve over time and grow with the business," says Reichenbacher.


Described on its website as "[a] complete publishing ecosystem," the New York City-headquartered Mag+, which is based on an InDesign plug-in, was designed for the app-building layman. One can create tablet and smartphone apps (such as consumer, corporate, and enterprise apps) without any programming skills. Mag+, which was behind the very first magazine on the iPad in 2010, has been used to build more than 3,000 applications in 4 years, according to Mike Haney, co-founder and chief creative officer of Mag+.


As Merchant Warehouse prepared to launch Genius-which it calls "a breakthrough, industry-first solution" and Reichenbacher calls "our flagship product"-it marked a "tipping point" for the company. It would have "a real product to sell that was tangible, that was physical, that was customer-facing and was going to end up on a countertop somewhere," explains Reichenbacher of the proprietary technology.

"Historically, our value proposition to our customers was primarily service-based," she explains. "That is really what we were selling, and it was easy to describe, easy to kind of talk about."

Reichenbacher adds that Genius is "more of a demonstration-based product"; thus, in order to explain Genius in a simple and concise manner in sales meetings and trade shows, Merchant Warehouse decided to seek out a firm to provide it with a high-quality PowerPoint-like presentation that it could show to prospective clients.


Seeking that quality presentation to show off Genius, Merchant Warehouse put out a request for proposal (RFP) and went through a variety of different companies. It knew it had found a winner when the company came across an app using Mag+ that was designed by CGI Interactive, a Massachusetts-based company that provides "solutions for communication challenges in PowerPoint, Flash, and web design," according to its website.

"Mary [Maryellen Clearwater, CGI's director of operations] and the CGI team came in, and we loved their work for the PowerPoint, but she happened to show us an app they had done," recalls Reichenbacher. "And she said, ‘Have you guys ever thought about using this?' We were just awestruck by it, and our focus shifted quickly to the app once we saw the sample and what it could do in terms of an experience and providing our salespeople with a tool."

From there, Merchant Warehouse and CGI teamed up, and the end result was an enterprise application, designed by CGI, for Android and iOS tablets. "It walks through an overview of the marketplace [trends and statistics], impact and challenges for small and midsized businesses, and details how our solution, Genius, solves ... those challenges and arms businesses for success," explains Reichenbacher.

Haney notes that many companies (not using a product such as Mag+) have tried to develop their own apps but have found that route to be expensive and difficult to maintain. Those companies are now coming around to platforms similar to Mag+, he notes. "That is because what we bring is this kind of standardized system that includes everything from how you create the content all the way through to how you distribute it with the actual app and then the key sort of back-end piece in the middle that handles all that distribution," says Haney.

Using Mag+ is "just a really worry-free way to get your business into this space, ... and it is quick to get up and running," Haney adds. "Now, you are not talking about a year-long project that you have to approve at every level of the business-now, you can literally be up and running the same day you visit our website," he says.

Clearwater notes that Mag+ provided the ability "to do a really cohesive presentation and to use our design talents to bring it to a really high level." She adds that her company is constantly looking for new solutions to offer clients, and that is how they came across Mag+.

"The app is very engaging, both the visuals and the graphics within," says Clearwater. "It allows us to tell a cohesive story, and [Mag+] is really reasonably priced so that we can do this for our clients at a nice entry-level point." Reichenbacher calls the app "a great tool" and notes that her company's sales staff all carry a tablet preloaded with the app "so they can just use them spontaneously."

"It was designed broad with the intent that it could tell the whole story in about 45 to 60 seconds, or 90 at the max, if you are walking through slowly, but it also had the flexibility" to allow users to skip to certain sections and doesn't require one to go from beginning to end, says Reichenbacher. "If you want to just leverage it for one key element or use it as just a single-focus discussion point, you can easily navigate your way to the appropriate location quickly and still use an element of the app without going through the entire story," explains Reichenbacher.

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