Can you imagine when all the great ideas for marketing and technology converge into a handful of networks, platforms and applications that make the consumer experience incredibly easy? While I’m skeptical that utopia is really possible in a capitalistic society, we seem to incrementally inching closer to that perhaps happening. While the last 10 years have been about startups and new ideas coming to market, I think the next 10 will be about those ideas consolidating together into fewer but more impactful services.

Take Salesforce.com‘s recent acquisitions. Radian6, JigSaw and DimDIm all joined the CRM platform in the last year, making it incredibly more robust and social all at once. Sure, there will always be competition sneaking in, innovating and doing something a little better or more compelling, but the successful companies in the technology and social spaces are either innovating or acquiring or both. And that’s good for users like us.

RedEAppOne innovation I’ve been waiting for is the consumer inbox. We all need a place where business and commerce happen that doesn’t interfere with or interrupt out personal communications. While some of us got smart as email marketers became more prevalent and set up an email account for junk so it never crossed paths with our family and friends messages, now many of us actually have a spam or junk free inbox on any of our emails?

Add to the email newsletters and daily deals the social messaging that has a commercial bend and our inbound life is just a digital version of Time Square … hopefully without the hookers and crack heads.

But where there’s a need, there’s a startup, right?

RedEApp launched last week. It’s a Louisville-based startup that has the idea of a consumer inbox in mind. The concept is for businesses to offer customer communications through the application, so the business never knows your email or phone number. The business offers you privacy and a singular inbox to receive their notifications, coupons, newsletters and more. The more businesses that offer the service, the more consolidated your inbox becomes.

Let’s say you’re a restaurant. You offer the RedEApp to customers. They control how the app notifies them, if at all. When they’re ready to go dining, they log in and see if you have sent out specials or coupons in the last few days. They can see your weekly newsletter, daily deal coupon or even announcements about menu changes or events because the customer has opted in to all your messaging. Certainly, if the customer is interested, they can also tell the app to notify them via text, social network or email instantly if their favorite business posts something.

The point is that the customer has control. They don’t have to surrender their phone number or email address or even have to log on to a social network to have a conversation with a company. If a business sends too many messages to them, they can opt out or just ignore them more easily because they come to their “when I want to talk to businesses” app rather than their inbox.

But RedEApp isn’t just a gimicky app, either. CEO Jonathan Erwin told me they are busy integrating and working with point-of-sale and customer relationship management software to really bring utility to the customer experience for app users. The example he used was a dry cleaner that, instead of telling customers the clothes would be ready by 6 p.m. tomorrow, could instantly notify the customer their clothes were ready as the ticket was scanned and racked upon completion. The application essentially makes point-of-sale systems real-time notification engines. Very cool.

The application currently comes in iPhone and Android formats. Businesses can sign on for a fairly reasonable rate (thought to be around $50 per month per location) and start empowering their customers with a new, privacy-driven consumer inbox.

The challenge that lies ahead for RedEApp is a mighty one. Businesses are going to have to be convinced they’re doing right by their customers and that action outweighs their want or need to have direct access to customer contact information. For businesses like dry cleaners that can benefit from a real-time tie-in with their existing systems, that might happen easily. For others, it might not.

Another problem area is getting customers to adopt it. By approaching businesses first, you”re relying on the business to educate the customer. But if you sell the application to customers and their favorite businesses aren’t using RedEApp, it’s useless.

But when I think about the possibility that we might one day have a consumer inbox that allows us to interact with brands and companies on our terms and not theirs, I get kind of excited. Here’s hoping RedEApp catches on.

What do you think? Do they have a significant challenge getting into businesses or getting through to customers? The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://nickhuhn.com nickhuhn

    Wait… what? I have to download a new app, create a new ID and then hope and pray that the merchant I’m dealing with has decided to integrate this software too?  Seems like some significant changes in behavior and infrastructure are required to make this viable. I just have to wonder what consumer and customer research was done prior to building this ‘solution’?  Are there merchants on this platform already?

    Honestly, I kinda enjoy having relationships with the merchants I frequent. As explained above and on their site, this sounds much more like an anonymized one-way notification service rather than a ‘conversation’ with me as a customer.  I genuinely hope this product can get legs, but it seems like there’s a lot of friction and chicken/egg considerations in both changing consumer behavior and establishing customer (business) adoption.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      You know, Nick, that’s kinda what I thought at first, but the concept of having a singular place (granted that would mean RedEApp takes off on a Groupon or Facebook-like trajectory) to have all the “business” communications come to get them out of the inbox is a void in the market. Not saying RedEApp will be the one company that fills that, but I like the potential. Lots of hoops to jump over to get there, but if they can get a few businesses on board to push the apps to consumers, I think consumers might find it useful. Of course, getting businesses to let go of contact information … that’s going to be a hurdle.

      • http://nickhuhn.com nickhuhn

        Just playing devil’s advocate: Is it a void in the market or is there simply not a void to fill for a service that tells me that both my restaurant table and urinalysis results are ready?  I think the concept would benefit tremendously from gaining traction in one vertical rather than chasing a dozen concurrently. I’m sure they’re on it.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Yes right about “problem area is getting customers to adopt it” since the customers are the ones who have to decide about the product they want to adopt.

  • http://blog.adminitrack.com/ Adminitrack

    A part of me believes it will always be on their terms, even if a small bit of it is on ours.

  • http://blog.adminitrack.com/ Adminitrack

    A part of me believes it will always be on their terms, even if a small bit of it is on ours.

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