Mark Brouwers of Nocto tells how the free social media app exposes hospitality businesses to potential customers.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mark Brouwers: I am happy to tell you that my family and I are healthy. Hopefully, it stays this way.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Nocto.
Mark Brouwers: After studying Media & Entertainment Management, I worked as a Digital Marketeer and a Head of Sales. Hereafter, I became an entrepreneur. It all started with organizing my own local events. I always dreamed of having my own company and making an impact by solving a problem. Two years ago, I started Nocto International B.V. together with David Franzen.
In our increasingly digital world, data is the key driver for efficiency in business operations. For nightlife, hospitality, and tourism, products become less significant, with the focus instead on the experience. “A successful night out is an experience, not just a time and place with music and people.” Nocto offers the best experiences to people and an efficient marketing tool by using data.
Then I met Johan Franzén – CEO of Entnest. Entnest – The all-in-one Platform for the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. As global trends shift towards interconnectivity and the digital world, we cannot forget about human interaction and trust. We must enable a positive balance between the traditional and the disruptive, where key values and ethics are at the core to drive sustainable progress locally and globally. I like the mission of Entnest: to nurture trusted collaboration among entrepreneurs for greater success and impact. So, I joined the team as a Regional Manager for Benelux & France.
How does Nocto innovate?
Mark Brouwers: Nocto is a free social media app that showcases real-time, location-based pictures and videos, exclusively from hospitality businesses to everyone within a 10km radius. By doing this, people help each other find the right place at the right time. When app users post insights in/of a venue, they are rewarded with Nocto’s digital token, the Noc. Noc’s are issued to buy deals such as; drinks, entrance tickets, snacks, and more. The app additionally shows an event list with all information you need, and since covid has hit the industry, also an overview of the available capacity at venues via the Nocto Stoplight.
We help hospitality businesses with their operations through our business platform. By using Nocto’s marketing and data tool, hospitality businesses can view insights posted by app users, promote their venue’s events & deals and gain insights into customer demographic & buying behavior. The platform increases efficiency, visibility, and the opportunity to build and strengthen customer relationships.
Nocto has recently innovated by integrating a Stoplight feature that allows venues to update their capacity in real-time. The Stoplight feature indicates with a red, orange, or green color, via our app, the availability of seats at a venue. Via the free app, people consequently have the ability to view real-time, location-based updates on capacity at specific hotspots. Nocto has discovered a way to innovate during the pandemic by integrating such a solution that benefits venues, consumers, and governments. The value that the Stoplight has for governments is that it indirectly helps crowd management and allows a community to move around safely in their city. Essentially, we offer a win-win-win solution.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Mark Brouwers: The pandemic has affected our finances, but that does not mean that we have put our operations and motivation on hold. Nocto’s sales team is diligently working on onboarding venues to Nocto’s free package to still support them. Our marketing team has been ensuring that our followers and app users stay up to date on what we have to offer. Additionally, Nocto has been expanding our business to various cities such as Barcelona, Brussels, Paris, and Lisbon to increase our exposure worldwide and start an international expansion. We are not letting the government regulations limit how well our business can continue operating during the pandemic. We are continuously seizing opportunities, looking at where we can expand to and innovating our services. The Stoplight feature has increased the value we offer as a company, and we have added a proposition to the government as well.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Mark Brouwers: Nocto has a young, enthusiastic, and motivating working environment. We work with a diverse, international team. We started small and have been continuously growing our team. We are currently working with various interns in the marketing and sales department. Additionally, We have onboarded various new employees as Account Managers in multiple cities around The Netherlands and internationally. To fully answer your question, we have not had to make many difficult choices regarding human resources. Quite the opposite, we have only been able to grow our amazing team.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Mark Brouwers: Nocto integrates a handful of customer relationship strategies to maintain a sustainable alliance.
Firstly, we offer a loyalty program for both venues and consumers. Consumers can earn Nocs, our digital token, when they post insights on our app. Noc’s are issued to buy deals such as; drinks, entrance tickets, snacks, and more. On the other hand, hospitality businesses can earn Nocs when consumers spend their Nocs on deals in their venue. As a consequence, the venues can utilize their Nocs on exclusive marketing campaigns such as push notifications.
Secondly, venues registered to Nocto Basic or Premium receive an automated monthly report from us, illustrating key statistics and relevant information to improve their business operations.
Thirdly, our marketing team prioritizes promoting our partner venues on all our marketing channels to help gain exposure to their business.
Fourthly, we offer continuous customer support. We have integrated a free video call tool within our business platform that allows clients to reach us at any time and moment necessary.
The above-mentioned customer relationship strategies have evolved positively since Nocto was founded. The pandemic has not altered any customer relationships drastically. Nocto also offers physical visits to our premium clients to ensure that all is going well and analyze how they can further optimize. This strategy has been put on hold due to the fact that most venues are currently closed. We have adapted to staying in contact remotely with venues to still ensure that all is going well.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Mark Brouwers: Nocto has benefited from our partner, Ketel1, a beverage brand, who has supported our operation and services. They support us in our launch campaigns in Rotterdam, our home market. Governments support us by connecting us with relevant stakeholders, and we have participated in multiple “challenges”, and won. At the moment, we are in negotiation with several governments to integrate the Stoplight system.
Your final thoughts?
Mark Brouwers: Nocto has been able to innovate effectively throughout the pandemic. My team and I are extremely excited for what is to come as well as seeing how Nocto can be of help to the reopening of the hospitality industry.