Imagine a world where instantaneous communication between consumers and businesses was more than just a lofty ideal lumped under the vague umbrella of “customer engagement”. A world where real estate agents can communicate with potential customers in an easily accessible, private, secure and non-invasive way. A world where consumers painlessly and anonymously interact with businesses in real time without being forced to wait and listen to elevator music.
Enter Toronto-based Twoople‘s (pronounced, “two-pull”), a free URL-based chat platform and engagement tool that wants to crate a new world of inclusive consumer and business communication. We chatted with founder Patrick Arlia to discuss Twoople’s origins, its differentiating features, as well as the company’s next steps.
“There’s an undeniable difference between the way people communicate with each other and the way businesses communicate with people,” says Arlia. With society becoming increasingly connected, people prefer instantaneous communication through means such as chat over email and phone calls. Arlia goes on to say, “Unfortunately, many businesses today have inadequate chat-strategies preventing them from tapping into an immense reservoir of potential consumer engagement.” As a free, universal, ubiquitous live-chatting platform, Twoople seeks to bridge that communication gap. The result would be convenience and value toward consumers in tandem with increased engagement for businesses – particularly small businesses.
Twoople was born out of Arlia’s own frustrations as a consumer. In attempting to contact a particular vendor, Arlia couldn’t get ahold of the vendor through the phone, and the vendor took two days to respond via email to each of Arlia’s questions and concerns. Accustomed to quick and painless communication with his friends through chat, Arlia wondered why consumers and businesses couldn’t engage in a similar fashion. He realized that a tool like Twoople would allow consumers and businesses to come to a mutual understanding in the short span of a few lines of chat as opposed to a few days spread over multiple emails. Surprised that such a platform did not already exist, Arlia joined forces with Rino Spano, Luciano Volpe and Opinder Sahota to found Twoople.
As a new business, differentiation from the plethora of “chat” platforms currently available is one of Twoople’s primary objectives and challenges. Twoople differentiates itself through its characteristics as a ubiquitous, democratized, universal and inclusive platform.
Arlia admits that live-chatting is nothing new, however, he says, “most currently implemented business live-chat solutions today are limited to a website. In order to live-chat with a business, you would have to actually go to their website, not knowing whether they had live-chat built in or not.” Twoople’s solution is encapsulated by the idea of ubiquity. “With Twoople, each business creates its own Twoople URL address, which can be displayed and advertised practically anywhere, much like an email or phone number. For example, if you want to let consumers know that you provide live-chatting as a means of customer engagement, you can print your Twoople address on coffee cups, posters, business cards etc.”
Democratization is a huge part of Twoople’s value and game plan. “Before, in order to implement live-chat, a company would have to hire a tech guy like myself to set it up, costing the business further resources. Twoople removes the technical requirement out of the process and allows any business to quickly and easily incorporate a chat strategy and communication channel through Twoople.” notes Arlia. With the advent of so many “disruptive” startups, Arlia comments on the success and realities of the current democratization of software, “similar to how Shopify simplified the intimidating procedure of e-commerce for the average business owner and how Wix simplified making websites for people without coding experience, Twoople simplifies the implementation of chat for businesses in that same vein.”
Twoople’s key propositions also encompass universality and inclusiveness. Because Twoople operates through URLs, people can access the service without having to download a specific app. The inclusive nature of Twoople lies in stark contrast with the exclusive model of “instant messengers” such as Skype and WhatsApp. Arlia explains that under an exclusive model, “both parties have to be using the same app. They have to exchange IDs and accept each other in order to start chatting. I believe that many businesses don’t use chat strategies as effectively as they should because of these layers of exclusivity.” With Twoople, consumers who want to engage with businesses do not need to register, provide any form of personal information or download an app. The universal and inclusive nature of Twoople means that anybody can initiate instantaneous, private and anonymous chats in a manner accessible through any device.
Regarding Twoople’s target demographic, Arlia is quick to stress that Twoople is most effective when applied to small businesses within a business to consumer context. Since their soft launch five months ago, Arlia notes that though they’ve seen some examples of peer-to-peer use, Twoople is designed to primarily facilitate interaction and engagement between businesses and consumers. In this sense Twoople is definitely not an “instant messenger” in the vein of Skype and WhatsApp. Fittingly, Twoople’s stickiest users over the last 5 months have been small business owners who utilize Twoople with great effect to create relationships with consumers.
Twoople’s next steps are unapologetically ambitious. Arlia envisions Twoople becoming the standard for business to consumer chat and sees it becoming as ubiquitous as household names like Facebook and Twitter. Though the market for Twoople-like competitors is currently unsaturated, Arlia welcomes competition and emphasizes that “it’s inevitable that there will be copy-cats and more competitors in the market. But the market is huge. There’s room for a Twoople in Canada, a similar brand in China, so on and so forth. Naturally our aim is to first become the industry standard. Once we have enough critical mass, we have plans for a first of its kind click-to-chat directory service to further streamline interaction between consumers and businesses.”
JJ Wong is a contributor to Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter.