By Kathleen Gallagher
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
No matter where Erik Thomas worked, the flower bulb dealer in Milwaukee, the school furnishings supplier, the online shoe retailer in Boston, the marketing problem was the same.
“Whether it was the directors or CEOs or executive teams, they would ask, ‘What are we missing, what aren’t we doing, what are the competitors doing that we aren’t?,'” Thomas said.
So this year, Thomas stopped commuting to Boston for his job as e-commerce director at Planetshoes.com and started a company here to answer those questions.
His new business, Getter LLC, has a patent-pending technology that helps retailers monitor and hone the effectiveness of their digital marketing efforts in real time. Getter’s technology also provides insight into what competitors are doing by gathering intelligence from online profiles it has created. The profiles, which it calls personas, function like an army of virtual secret shoppers.
Thomas, 35, has long had an entrepreneurial itch. At 15, he started his first company and made his first sale, $3,750 for building a system that helped a client upload computer-aided design files. Because he didn’t yet have a driver’s license, his dad drove him to meetings.
After graduating with a degree in computer science from a technical college in 2002, Thomas had a number of software developer and e-commerce management jobs that led to his position with Planetshoes in Boston. There, he impressed co-workers with his business skills.
“Erik is a dual threat,” said Katie Doyle, who has since left Planetshoes to co-found brassclothing.com, which sells women’s clothing basics and is a Getter customer. “He understands marketing communications, but he’s also a coder and understands web development.”
Thomas Boudreau, Planetshoes.com’s finance director, was so impressed with Thomas’ ability to innovate and deploy technology that he said he became Getter’s first investor in late 2014. Many companies still rely on a book with printouts of screenshots from their websites and copies of promotional emails they’ve sent to customers to get a handle on their marketing progress, Boudreau said. But in the age of big data, a company like Getter offers better options, he said.