133 Startups Disrupting Brick-and-Mortar Retail


CB Insights:

Augmented/Virtual Reality Tools – Startups that leverage augmented or virtual reality to aid retailers in layout of stores and the design of promotional displays. InContext Solutions, which has worked with clients like Walmart, Nestle, and Kellogg’s, lets brands visualize marketing concepts and test new designs on shoppers in virtual reality to gauge their efficacy before launch. Augment aims to help brands, such as General Mills, L’Oreal, and Coca-Cola, pitch their vending machines, kiosks, or merchandise displays to retailers by showing how they would look in augmented/virtual reality.

Beacon-Based Analytics and Marketing – Companies that provide hardware and software to help stores track visitors. Many focus on data collection for internal analytics, such as merchandise tracking, adjusting staffing levels, monitoring promotions, etc. Euclid Analytics, for example, tracks visitors to monitor the impact of promotions on driving store visits and to better understand when people visit stores and specific aisles. Others focus on proximity marketing to shoppers while in or near stores. For example, Estimote provides small, colorful beacons that send push notifications to users’ phones about products or promotions when it senses someone near. Kimetric’s sensors aim to visually identify shoppers’ age, gender, eye focus, and clothing style to present them with personalized marketing. This category includes the most well-funded company in the graphic: RetailNext, with $189M in funding, offers traffic sensors, customer route mapping, mobile marketing, and more.

Connected Shopping Carts – Startups that outfit shopping carts with digital features. For example, Gatekeeper and Carttronics outfit shopping carts with RFID tags to track the carts and prevent theft.

Customer Loyalty – Reward and loyalty platforms for retailers. Thirdshelf provides white-label loyalty program software, while Dealyze installs tablets by the cash register to encourage loyalty program signup and let customers track their rewards. LevelUp lets customers pay by phone and earn rewards.

Digital In-Store Assistants – Fellow Robots and Simbe Robotics launched robots that can act as store associates, checking store shelves and guiding customers throughout the store. Fellow Robots recently launched its Navii robot in 11 Lowe’s stores in California, while Simbe has tested its Tally robot in Target. Satisfi, on the other hand, provides a mobile app leveraging artificial intelligence to help shoppers in-store; it recently piloted its app in conjunction with IBM Watson in Macy’s.

Digital Signage – Companies that provide stores with connected, digital signs to advertise products inside stores, provide shoppers with product information, or let stores adjust product pricing in real-time. For example, Blue Bite recently raised its $2.5M in funding to create product tags enriched with QR codes and NFC technology.

Employee Tools – A variety of messaging tools and planning platforms for retail store staff. Branch, for example, which graduated from Techstars in June, offers internal messaging networks for retail employees. Salesfloor provides software that helps associates maintain consistent relationships with customers across store and online channels.

Guest Wi-Fi – Startups that enable free in-store Wi-Fi for retailers. The companies generally use the Wi-Fi to track shoppers and provide stores with customer analytics. Zenreach, for example, has raised $50M from investors including First Round Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, and 8VC.

Indoor mapping – These startups take advantage of connected devices to create detailed indoor maps of stores and malls. Retailers leverage the apps to help users find the right items and direct them to promotions.

In-Store Point-of-Sale Financing – Startups that let shoppers instantly apply for and receive loans or installment plans while shopping in-store. Blispay, with $14M in funding from investors including NEA, lets users apply for financing on their phones while in-store.

Interactive Aisle Displays – Startups producing interactive digital displays and kiosks – often in tablet form – to attract shoppers within store aisles. Aila, for example, mounts iPads in aisles to offer price scanning, product information, etc., while Ksubaka provides “playSpot” kiosks with gamification features on tablets advertising products. Ksubaka works with brands such as Coca-Cola, Nescafe, Dove, Colgate, and Kellogg’s in stores throughout Asia.

Inventory Management – Startups that help stores track inventory and optimize merchandising, generally using cloud-based software. Some, such as Celect and Blue Yonder, also use artificial intelligence to provide predictive merchandising analytics.

Music Management – Startups that help stores manage their in-store music playlists.

Omnichannel Analytics – Platforms integrating in-store and e-commerce analytics for a more seamless shopper experience. For example, ShoppinPal helps retailers digitize their store and payment management and integrate inventory across brick-and-mortar and e-commerce channels. OneView Commerce aims to better engage multi-channel shoppers.

Payment Platforms – Software that handles payments for consumers at retailers. Since payment platforms is a massive category, we restricted inclusion to companies that only process payments and focus on retail stores.

Point-of-Sale Reviews and Marketing – Startups that provide digital add-ons to the checkout process for customers in-stores. TruRating and Wyzerr solicit satisfaction ratings from shoppers at the checkout counter. MessageWrap (Handstand Innovations) adds visual advertising to checkout conveyor belts at stores like Target and Safeway. FlexReceipts and Ecrebo can add personalized offers and incentives to shoppers’ receipts, aiming to attract return visits.

Smart dressing rooms – Oak Labs created an interactive, touchscreen mirror that lets shoppers request new items, adjust fitting room lighting, and see outfit recommendations. The mirror can sense which products the shopper brought into the room using RFID technology, and then present related products, save the items to shoppers’ online accounts, or display related items. Oak has worked with Polo Ralph Lauren.

Store Management Software – Broad platforms that help retailers manage merchandise, process payments, manage employees, etc., allowing for the handling of many of the operations of the store from one application. These startups include some of the most well-funded in the category, including Revel with $129M, Lightspeed POS with $126M, and Shopkeep POS with $97M.

Visual Shelf Monitoring – Startups that help consumer packaged goods brands monitor the presentation of their merchandise on store shelves and track the results of in-store promotions and visual displays. Some rely on in-store cameras and artificial intelligence features, while others leverage crowdsourced intelligence from shoppers and store associates.