HotNow: On a mission to empower emerging economies in SE Asia
RTIH catches up with Nithinan Boonyawattanapisut, boss of HotNow, which recently announced the first retail partners for its new Evergleam Hill crypto game: American ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins, Thailand’s largest department store and lifestyle brand Robinson, and fast food chain Mister Donut.
RTIH: Tell us about HotNow and Evergleam Hill.
NB: Based in Thailand, HotNow is a marketing automation platform that provides merchants in Southeast Asia with cost-effective, high-efficacy marketing tools. Merchants are also able to transfer some of the value-surplus to their consumers. Though consumers use the internet to inform their purchase decisions, 94% of retail transactions in emerging Asian markets still use cash in bricks and mortar stores.
HotNow effectively bridges this online-to-offline gap by way of blockchain technology and gamification, leveraging our new proprietary in-game advertising technology, HotPlay, to improve marketing efforts while allowing merchants to engage with their consumers in novel ways through special discounts, promotions and experiences.
Envisaged to showcase HotPlay’s approach to non-invasive, real-time in-game advertising, Evergleam Hill is the latest extension to our gamified online-to-offline economy. As the world’s first fully-integrated crypto game to feature the HotPlay technology, Evergleam Hill is a highly engaging, casual mobile game, where players navigate the eponymous mining village in order to make their fortune by mining for gold in the form of the ecosystem’s HOT tokens.
In doing so, players will be able to unlock real-world rewards and promotional coupons from merchant partners within the game. For merchants, Evergleam Hill will provide them with the opportunity to work with HotNow’s game developers in order to create branded in-game items and elements such as banners, buildings, and tools as a form of native advertising.
RTIH: What was the inspiration behind setting the company up and launching the game?
NB: One of our long-term goals is to empower emerging economies in Southeast Asia. Despite being home to one of the world’s most active internet and smartphone users, the advent of e-commerce has not threatened bricks and mortar businesses in this part of the world.
However, it’s undeniable that with a younger, more mobile-savvy generation, these traditional merchants will need to find new ways to meaningfully engage with and incentivise their customers. By leveraging blockchain technology and tokenised alternatives, we’ve given retailers the ability to take part in the region’s ongoing digital transformation without needing to fully acquaint themselves with the technical mechanics of blockchain or cryptocurrencies.
That said, in order for cryptocurrencies to attain mainstream adoption, its value needs to be both accepted and realised. Our team found that the best way to do this would be to introduce a token economy into existing industries that have a vast target audience, such as retail, advertising, and gaming, in order to best enable a new cryptocurrency-based economy to flourish
Moreover, as gamers are already familiar with the concept of in-game assets and virtual coins, we’ve found that a game is the perfect way to introduce people to a new and relatively complex concept such as cryptocurrencies. With our parent company, Axion Ventures, and their history in the game development space for over a decade, we’ve been able to leverage our expertise in that industry in order to develop games to help boost our HOT ecosystem.
RTIH: What has been the industry reaction thus far?
NB: As a company, we’ve always taken pride in the fact that HotNow as a service has excelled and thrived within the Thai market. Having surpassed promises in a whitepaper or a proof-of-concept, the fact that we have an existing business with proven success, coupled with this latest addition to our product ecosystem, has been met with much acclaim. Guided by a vision with a clear path on how to drive our agenda for new products, growth, and expansion, we’ve been able to deliver on our promises to our community and investors alike.
RTIH: What has been your biggest challenge/setback?
NB: Like most projects in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, one of the greatest hurdles we have to overcome is regulatory clarity and institutional support. As such, one of the biggest challenges we continue to confront is getting bigger retail companies to come on board our platform due to the lack of clear regulation surrounding how to manage crypto assets in their accounting books. Today, we’re still seeing resistance from auditing firms who either refuse to or lack the ability to work with businesses that are working with crypto assets.
"Traditional merchants will need to find new ways to meaningfully engage with and incentivise a younger, more mobile-savvy generation"
RTIH: What are the biggest challenges facing the retail sector right now?
NB: There are two critical challenges in today’s omnichannel retail space: insufficient communication tools and a lack of resources to maximise marketing impact. Firstly, retailers lack a means of communication that allows them to engage with both their existing and prospective customers.
Meanwhile, the inability to profile customers prevents retailers from successfully and purposefully engaging with them, with access to relevant information, merchants can better customise offers and experiences for their target audiences. Following that, today’s marketing solutions, including digital ones, lack the transparency that would enable retailers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns all the way down to their ability to drive purchase actions.
RTIH: What's the best question about your company or the market asked of you recently by an investor and a customer?
NB: From an investor: FinTech and mobile payments companies have received a great deal of funding in the last three years, especially as they’ve expanded to other offerings such as loyalty programmes, data analytics, loans, and more. How is HotNow gaining a competitive advantage over them?
This question really emphasises one of the existing challenges that we have today as startups in the FinTech industry, specifically in the mobile payments sector, are looking to diversify their offerings. However, unlike these companies, HotNow instead caters to a larger target market of retail partners. These companies primarily serve retailers with consumers who already use credit and debit cards.
To date, we are the only company that is also able to serve retailers with consumers who engage in cash-based transactions which gives us a competitive advantage, especially in emerging economies. Rather than being threatened by competition, we know that as we continue to gain traction in local markets throughout the region, we’ll need to engage in strategic partnerships with payment service providers in order to achieve interoperability with their existing infrastructures to bring our unique technological offerings to a wider audience of merchants and consumers alike.
From a customer: When will I be able to pay with HOT tokens?
What this question shows is an existing interest in exploring the potential of HOT as a store of value that bears greater resemblance to a traditional cryptocurrency. Though HOT is utilised as a means of accessing special promotions or offers on the HotNow platform, the use of HOT as a payment method would aid in greater adoption and the growth of its token economy. However, it’s ultimately up to retailers themselves if they’d like to accept HOT as a means of payment.
RTIH: What can we expect to see from HotNow over the next 12 months?
NB: 2019 is a very exciting time for is as we have a whole host of new developments on the horizon. For one, we hope to expand our suite of HotPlay offerings as we add four to five games from our group’s portfolio into the HotPlay ecosystem.
Following this, we’ll be introducing an API that will enable third-party game developers to introduce their games onto the HotPlay platform. As for the ecosystem as a whole, we’re continuing to secure partnerships with several retailers, both big and small, while driving greater awareness in the hopes of growing our global user base.