Kachingo hopes for overseas comeback

Kachingo technology director Noel Duckworth is hopeful his creation will spring back to life. The IT veteran of over 30 years helped create the shopping promotion concept, which was withdrawn earlier this year.

Kachingo technology director Noel Duckworth is hopeful his creation will spring back to life.

The IT veteran of over 30 years helped create the shopping promotion concept, which was withdrawn earlier this year.

But system operator Global Online Systems (GOSL) is looking for $2 million to take the technology overseas, expecting a US launch early next year.

Kachingo was a lottery-type promotion for retailers Woolworths, BP, Big Fresh, Super Liquor and Price Chopper.

The computer-based system offered rewards and instant prizes if a shopper spent a certain amount of money, or bought a certain product.

Some 500 remote servers connected 1700 points of sale across the country.

The software was written in Red Hat Linux 6.2, chosen because Duckworth says it avoided licensing costs, it was robust, could be customised and upgrades were not determined by third parties. It was one of the earliest large-scale deployments of Linux in the country.

"I can't see what practical limitations there is on Linux these days," he says.

Code was mostly written in Java and database servers were Microsoft SQL, chosen because of their scalability.

"We built the system to be modular and scalable. We don't have any worries about expanding into an overseas market, " Duckworth says.

Since Kachingo ceased operations, the former CSI Australia general manager says his team of five Wellington-based developers have been upgrading the software, working with New Zealand and overseas companies on new promotions.

At the time of the Kachingo launch three years ago, GOSL had 15 to 18 IT staff.

"I still know where those people are and I can get them back," he says.

Duckworth won't say whether Kachingo will return locally, but says the upgrade means future promotions can be tailored to individual shoppers, including members of existing loyalty programmes.

"We have broadened the scope of promotions, and can trigger meal deals. We are implementing systems and doing programmes for other people in the promotions space," he says.

In a statement to prospective shareholders, GOSL claims interest from overseas, saying early feedback suggests a US launch in early 2004. A prospectus also reveals GOSL has lost $13.5 million since its 2000 launch, including $8.5 million in the year to March 31, 2003. They include operating losses of $1.8 million in 2002 and $700,000 this year.

However, the prospectus quotes BP as saying Kachingo lifted the oil company's market share by 2%; Woolworths says 5% if its sales were Kachingo-dependent and Super Liquor says the promotion helped increase its sales by 7%.

Both Duckworth and company executive chairman Michael Whittaker say despite the demise of Kachingo the project was a success in technology terms.

"We had no frauds and no system failure," Duckworth says.

"Essentially the programme ended because it failed to find critical mass. When Woolworths was bought by Progressive Enterprises, it then had its own [loyalty] card, and there were not the retailers to sustain it [Kachingo]."

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