While working as a cashier at a convenience store, Krutik Patel noticed an odd trend. Each day, a young customer came in to buy a drink. Each day, he paid in cash and left his change.
After a few days, Patel spoke up, pointing out that the customer easily could have covered the purchase of additional drinks with his loose change. The customer’s response? “I don’t want it. It’s annoying.”
Patel was surprised, as change certainly adds up over time. Sharing this experience with his childhood friend, Kashish Shah, the two decided to do some research. Patel’s regular customer was not the only one leaving his change, especially in the world of convenience stores.
The pair discovered that the average American has about $60 in change sitting around their house, according to Coinstar Research. They also found that more than 60% of customers still pay with cash at convenience stores.
“We wanted to do something big,” Patel said. “We looked at the problem, did some research, looked at the market and saw what was out there.”
Patel is an undergraduate student at Penn State University majoring in computer science. Shah graduated in management with a focus on finance. With their combined experience, they came up with a solution for both customers and businesses.
“The problem is changing these coins to dollar bills, and we wanted to solve that,” Shah said.
From there, Koin Keepr was born—a software startup that aims to provide software solutions for retail businesses. Patel works as co-founder and CEO, while Shah is co-founder and COO. To get the ball—or change—rolling, they partnered with Penn State, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA and the Small Business Development Center.
Patel and Shah determined that consumers often lost their change or found it difficult to use. It fell under car seats, jingled in pockets or got tossed in a jar in the closet. Plus, with the growth of touchless payment, the perceived value of change is increasingly ignored.
On the other side, a national coin shortage makes cash transactions difficult for retailers, they said. Patel and Shah found that many retailers are using incentives to get customers to bring in their change jars. Running out of change can lead to poor customer experiences and additional bank runs during the day.
Similar to a store loyalty card, the Koin Keepr concept uses a bar code tag that can be access on a card or through a smartphone. Customers receive their change digitally through this method and, as the change adds up, can use it for future purchases at the store.
“It helps customers save change and makes it easier for them,” Shah said.
Right now, each store would register its own Koin Keepr account. For example, if Patel purchased a drink at C-store A, his change could be accessed to make a purchase at C-store A in the future. The change he accumulated at C-store B would be accessible for a future purchase under C-store B. As a customer, Patel would have one Koin Keepr account showing the change he accumulated at different stores that use Koin Keepr.
At this stage, Patel and Shah are ready to get Koin Keepr in front of retailers. “We want to talk to businesses,” Patel said. “We’ll provide everything they need and train them to use the service. It’s actually easy and saves time over the current system.”
During the proof-of-concept stage, the service to retailers is free of cost and includes all training to all employees involved. The money never leaves the retailer’s control, Patel said.
Right now, it’s all about making sure things are working as they should and getting business owners to play with the software, Patel said. After that, Patel and Shah will integrate into their existing point-of-sales systems and onboard more stores to provide new innovative services and improve experiences.
Patel and Shah are eager to share their solution and gain feedback from businesses. “We’re open to talking with anyone. We value their time,” Patel said.
“This is a new concept and new business service. It takes time to accept it in the market, but once it gets in the market, it’s a convenience in the market for the people and for the businesses.”
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