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Using mobile apps to connect businesses with customers


Businesses battling to stay connected with customers could find some help from a new company started by University at Buffalo engineering graduates.

Mogabi (formerly Ethos Studios) was a semifinalist in the Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition at UB in 2014 for its idea of keeping customers engaged with mobile games, and the company worked on developing a product it could take to market.

Co-founders Rob Barber, an electrical engineering graduate, and Joel Little, a computer science graduate, started the company three years ago.

When a business signs up for Mogabi’s service, the business receives its own customized mobile game, branded to fit the company, in the App Store and Google Play store. The business also receives access to a web portal allowing it to interact with anyone who installs the app.

The platform focusses on three programs: customer reach, customer loyalty and customer engagement.

The customer reach program allows business owners to send messages directly to a user’s phone inside of the mobile app. It also gives businesses insight into how and how many users are responding to those messages, taking actions such as reading them and sharing them.

The customer loyalty program sends customers coupons and incentives via the in-app “wallet.” Users can also save the coupons to their bonus card for easy access the next time they make a purchase.

One of the most unique features of the Mogabi mobile platform is the engagement program. The app includes branded mobile video games that continually expose users to the business logo, products and imagery. Businesses can even offer coupons or rewards for users that reach exceptional levels of game play.

Why mobile games?

“Games are just part of what we do, but they are very compelling for marketing,” Barber said. “Websites are good to build traffic, but apps are better for long-term engagement, and we believe games can be better still.”

Games expose customers to the company’s brand in innovative ways, he said. For example, a customer shoots at asteroids with logos on them, or flies through a series of products. Most traditional marketing or advertising techniques don’t reach this level of interaction, he said.

The games Mogabi builds are based on current popular games and are designed to reach a variety of people.

“When mobile gaming entered the forefront, it introduced a new type of gamer,” Little said. “The mobile apps are simple cute games you can play with one hand, and they kind of democratized games. Anyone can play them. It doesn’t matter if you are a 95-year-old grandfather or a five-year-old.”

Who can benefit from the platform?

The platform is best suited for businesses with a fun atmosphere and a need or desire to better connect with and engage with their customers.

Mogabi has a few clients now, including Oogie Games, a local retail chain that bills itself as “everything video games.”

Designing and building mobile apps can be cost prohibitive for many companies.  Games in particular have been very expensive, so only giant companies like McDonald’s and Red Bull have been able to use them for marketing, said Ryan Fiust-Klink, Mogabi’s sales director and an aerospace and mechanical engineering graduate.

“If a restaurant wants to build and maintain an app and a game, they have a huge cost to overcome” he said. That’s where Mogabi comes in. The platform allows them to deliver quality mobile apps quickly and affordably. It also enables them to efficiently handle app maintenance for clients, he said.

Maintenance includes adapting to any changes Apple or other system providers may make to their platforms. “As developers, we get notice of the changes, and we go in and fix the apps so our customers don’t see any change,” he said.

Little said the company can launch an app quickly. Mogabi clients just need to provide a copy of their logo. Then creative director Amanda Lamardi, a Daemen College graduate, incorporates the logo into the game and customizes the artwork throughout the app and game to fit the new client’s brand.

Eventually, Mogabi wants to create a full one-click service.

“We’re building a system where people can go to our site and get an app in minutes,” Little said. “If you’re a business owner and you want a really effective customer engagement tool that’s out of the box, we can do that.”