Peter McCaul, Founder of Péarlaí, explains the story behind his brand, why choosing a unique name is an important step of the brand-building process, and where he sees Péarlaí in the future.
What is the story behind Péarlaí?
I had another company IDC-Intell (Incentivised Data Capture) before Péarlaí where we installed touch screen kiosks into shopping centers which rewarded shoppers with discounts in stores and free gifts for completing surveys asking their demographic details. The results from these surveys enabled shopping center management to get an insight into customer demographics in greater detail than through alternative options like footfall counters and exit surveys, as customers could complete the surveys in a non-evasive manner.
Centre management could then adjust their marketing through the data we provided to attract more like-minded customers instead of a scattergun approach which many had previously used. The rewards customers received also drove footfall into the center’s store giving the center’s tenants proof that their marketing budget was being used effectively.
Five years ago I first read about the impending GDPR legislation that was going to be introduced through the EU and realized that the IDC-Intell model would not work under GDPR and I’d have to think of a different business model moving forward. We knew our shopping center and retailer clients truly valued the data we provided, so I asked all our existing clients at the time, if they had a magic wand what would they love to have for their centers and stores.
Their answers were having the same if not better capabilities as online retailers as in, knowing each individual visitors personally immediately when they arrive onsite, knowing where they go on-site, how long they dwell in individual retailers or specific areas of a shopping center, having the ability to engage with them while they are on-site and measure the effectiveness (conversion rate) of those engagements.
Easy eh! I then spent 6 months searching the globe for technology that would enable us to do everything on their wish list and eventually found the only company in the world that could do it in South Africa. That company was Hiving Technologies which was started by Terry Ashwin who invented the world’s first wireless device (a printer) and the pre-cursa to Bluetooth. The technology is 4th generation patented RFID technology and it is the smallest hardware on the market, has the longest range, is the most accurate, lowest cost, and is completely configurable and we have a worldwide in perpetuity exclusive contract to use it within the retail sector with scope to venture into additional sectors.
Essentially what we do is provide shoppers with a smart little key fob which provides them with all year round discount in 100’s of retailers, personalized SMS from their preferred retailers and rewards them for their loyalty in real-time, while at the same time providing shopping centers and retailers detailed demographic details on who their customers are, when they arrive, where they go and engage and measure the effectiveness of those engagements.
When did you start thinking about your brand name and how did you settle on Péarlaí?
About six months after beginning to develop our software around the Hiving technology hardware, and when we were certain it would do what we needed it to.
I knew our brand name had to have something to do with data as we are a data company at heart that provides insights and trend analysis to our clients. I also knew that we would be incorporating artificial intelligence when identifying insights and trends. In the beginning, there were four members of staff within the company and three of which were from Ireland and we wanted to recognize that fact, so we were looking for Irish words that could tie in the elements mentioned earlier.
I found the word Péarlaí which means Pearls in the Irish language and our main objective was to provide pearls of wisdom to our clients through insights harvested from our data, the fact it ended in AI meant it was perfect for us. We mentioned it to a number of people and everyone loved the word itself as it just rolled off the tongue, it was unique which meant we would be easily recognizable and would also come top of any search engine results as our brand awareness increased because there was no other company with a similar name.
How did you get the domain name Pearlai.com for your brand? Why did you select that one exactly?
When I had set up my last two previous companies our website designer used a specific domain company for our domain names and there were never any problems with those. We used their site to search for the domain and it was available and we bought it there and then. We opted for.com over .ie, .co.uk and other alternative options because .com domains signify predominantly that a user or business is a global player, and that’s exactly what we are, we want to offer our technology and solutions to help shopping centers across the world, not just in the UK and Ireland. Later we added business.pearlai.com to differentiate between our consumer-facing website and our business element.
How has owning Pearlai.com affected your business? Do you own any other domain names?
Owning Pearlai.com and our subdomain business.pearlai.com has enabled us to build a brand up from the name, there is no point having a domain that doesn’t have your company name in it. With this in mind owning the right domain affects everything moving forward such as branding, sales material, etc and even introductions eg visit business.pearlai.com to find out more.
Yes, we own 10+ other domains from earlier companies I owned and some other domains we sometimes use when launching with a new client. An example of this would be buttercranevip.co.uk, we would set up a specific domain for a new client and allow them to link it to their own website. This helps offer assurance to the customers/shoppers signing up for the VIP fob, rather than diverting them straight to pearlai.com, it offers more assurance when they can see that the domain name is linked to the shopping center they are signing up to become a VIP with.
Who is your target customer and how is your brand name helping in reaching them?
Our target customer is shopping centers and retailers. As everyone knows now, data is key for any company making informed decisions, so when our target market is searching for the right data related companies they often search AI along with relevant retail-related words which means we rank high in many search results.
How do you keep your brand consistent across different channels online and offline?
We have tried to be consistent across all our channels but I’m the first to admit that this hasn’t always been the case in the past. We have actually just commissioned a company to do a complete review and redesign of all our channels and promotional materials so that our branding is perfectly consistent, both online and offline.
Has the pandemic affected your company in any way? What has changed since?
Very much so, our clients are shopping centers and retailers who effectively closed for the last three months so we had to suspend all their accounts until recently. Although we have used this unfortunate break from the normal to streamline all our internal processes and ensure we re-emerge a more professional company ready to meet the ever-growing need for companies like ours.
We also developed an online booking feature that enables shoppers to book times that suits them best to visit their favorite stores thus alleviating the need for queuing and a cloud-based counting system helping retailers manage crowd control in line with government guidelines.
What do you do to make sure your marketing is effective?
We have a very serious approach when it comes to marketing. We are fully aware that the key to any company’s success is the implementation of a successful marketing strategy.
We have got an in-house marketing team, who collaborate with external graphic design and PR agencies to help the company increase brand awareness by reaching out to potential customers. The Senior Managers at Péarlaí also work very closely with the marketing team to get updates on activities and work together on arranging face to face, telephone, or online consultations to try and secure leads.
It’s through the close connection senior staff have with the individuals within the marketing department that enables us to monitor the effectiveness of our advertising. We review analytics on a weekly basis, and we continuously carry out a lot of A/B testing to ensure that we are using the best-suited advertisements and content for our target audience.
Our budget is closely monitored by the company’s Marketing Manager, and if we notice any negative trends that are impacting our return of investment appropriate changes are made immediately.
What would your advice be to entrepreneurs who are just starting out, in general, and when it comes to branding and naming?
Starting any business is exactly what all the clichés say it is, hard work and all-consuming but the things you absolutely have to do is know your market inside out, be willing to make many sacrifices, be honest with your team, share your ambition, and have a very understanding wife and family.
Where do you see your business in the future and how does your brand name fit into that vision?
I see Péarlaí as a globally scalable business recognized as a world-leading retail analytics and customer engagement company used by many of the world’s largest shopping centers and blue-chip retailers. Having a unique and easily recognizable brand is a hugely important element of achieving our ambition, all the best brands are recognizable at a glance and that is what we want Péarlai to be.
Since you are using the subdomain business.pearlai.com for a specific audience, what was the reasoning behind the decision to do that?
We touched on this earlier, but the team felt it would make more sense to create a whole new website with its own unique domain specifically aimed at business clients. Pearlai.com is the website we use to host the registration forms that allow shoppers to sign up for a VIP shopper fob which can be used in a center close by to them. Whereas the business website displays the benefits of using Péarlaí’s technology for shopping center management and retail managers.
The key messages on pearlai.com are aimed towards shoppers who are seeking discounts and free gifts from shopping centers, which are completely different from the key messages on our business website. We felt we couldn’t squeeze all that information onto one website, no matter how well structured and organized it was. We didn’t want potential business clients landing on our website after using a search term like “retail analytics” and reading through content that was completely irrelevant to them, and vice versa for our shoppers. We didn’t want shoppers searching for discounts in their local shopping center and being baffled by content on technology.
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