Transforming bricks-and-mortar shopping is a high-stakes endeavor for retailers given Americans still do over 90% of our shopping in physical stores. In fact, one of the latest trends in retail is the launch of physical stores by online e-commerce companies, including Amazon, Warby Parker, and Birchbox.
Dozens of startups have taken on the challenge of helping retailers bridge the gap between digital and physical commerce through features ranging from shelf-stocking robots, to augmented reality displays, to Wi-Fi based beacons that collect data on shopper behavior.
- Associate Tools – Mobile tools that improve store associate workflow. Theatro produces wi-fi based wearables for floor staff at stores like Cabela’s, while Tulip Retail offers tablet-based systems and QLess makes checkout notification software to eliminate lines.
- Coupons & Rewards – Digital tools to manage coupons and rewards program. For example, brands like Victoria’s Secret use Koupon Media to push mobile coupons to shoppers’ phones while they are in store. Ibottaoffers digital cash back with brands like Target, Walmart, Aeropostale, Express and JCPenney.
- Display Tech – Digital, interactive product display systems. Celect’ssoftware uses machine learning to optimize product arrangements, while PERCH produces interactive digital displays used by brands like Kiehl’s and Cole Haan. Blippar designs augmented reality displays for brands such as Maybelline, Pantene, and Porsche, and SpyderLynk – whose clients include EA, Lancome, and Kiehl’s – uses mobile barcodes to bring digital ad campaigns into the physical world. Aila manages interactive in-aisle tablets for stores like Foot Locker, and says it works with four of the US’s top 20 retailers.
- Discounting Tools – Companies helping retailers unload excess inventory at discounted prices, including Inturn.
- Inventory Management – Digital tools to track inventory and manage stockrooms. Fetch Robotics and Simbe Robotics offer robots that load products, and startups like SkuIQ and Orchestro offer software for real-time inventory analytics.
- Loyalty – These companies drive loyalty programs for stores. For example, Belly powers digital loyalty programs for brands like 7-11 and Buffalo Wild Wings.
- Omnichannel Engagement – Integrating in-store and e-commerce analytics for a more seamless shopper experience. For example OneView Commerce integrates in-store and e-commerce data for stores, while Wyzerr helps companies capture digital and in-person feedback.
- Payments/POS – Software to manage point-of-sale systems and/or accept payments; some let stores accept payments from phones (like Cardfree), or bitcoin (like POSaBIT).
- POS Financing – Helping retailers offer point-of-sale financing to shoppers in stores, like Blispay and Vyze, whose clients include Home Depot and Mattress Warehouse
- Sensors & Beacons – Using in-store sensors to track foot traffic and shopper behavior. Startups like Nomi and Footmarks produce sensors that monitor foot traffic so associates can react to shoppers in real time. Swirl works with brands like Urban Outfitters, Lord & Taylor, and Timberland to monitor shopper behavior with beacons. Point Inside provides beacons to Target. Startups like Estimote, Shelfbucks, and Bfonics leverage beacons for in-store proximity marketing, such as sending mobile notifications to shoppers about the products they’re currently browsing.
- Smart Dressing Rooms – New York-based Oak Labs has designed a smart fitting room, letting shoppers browse products and more on interactive, digital, touchscreen mirrors. Some retailers have developed comparable technologies in-house or through tech partnerships, such as Rebecca Minkoff with eBay.