In-store tech, how much do we know?

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When online business is aggressively eating up the market share of offline stores, when traditional retailers are distraught with the growing threat from e-commerce rivals, many startups have sprung up and said “they are here to help”.

They claim they are specializing in in-store technology, which allows brick&mortar retailers to track shoppers data&activity, akin to the way e-commerce is able to analyze online consumer profile&journey.

It is estimated that till now the sector of in-store technology has received more than USD 648 million across 164 deals. The key categories of in-store technology include but not limited to:

-Beacon/wifi based analytics and marketing:

-Omni-channel analytics:

-Payment platform/point of sale marketing&review:

-Store management software: covering merchandising, inventory, customer loyalty/reward, employee management

-In-store display and assistant: visual shelf monitoring, robot, digital signage, virtual fitting room…

In 2015, RetailNext cashed in USD125 million in series E funding and closed the biggest deal of in-store tech so far. Established in 2007, the American startup now boasts that it can integrates with the largest number of physical and digital data sources inside and around the brick-mortar, such as:

-Video camera feeds (analog or IP camera)

-Wifi and blue tooth

-Point of Sale system

-weather

-staffing system

-promotional calendar

then turn these inputs into insightful outputs like dashboard, data exports, predictive analytics, custom analysis, real time alerts, maps, API etc.

The second largest deal in 2015 went to LightSpeed, USD61 million in Series C. This Canadian startup not only offers POS hardware&software, but also provides a powerful store management system for inventory management, data analytics, employee management, automated CRM etc.

In China, current most well-funded in-store tech startup should be Yunnex. It was launched in 2013, and already raised USD45 million in Series B in August 2016. It started out as a POS hardware company, but adding the vale of sales and marketing management software on top. Yunnex mainly targets at SME clients in China, especially those in the dining sector, which is still growing and least impacted by the buoyancy of e-commerce. Its biggest client now is Ajisen, a ramen noodle chain, also one of the investors behind Yunnex. Therefore Yunnex is able to install its POS and software in over 700 of Ajisen’s restaurants in China. Nevertheless we have not seen many local in-store tech startups which can match the comprehensive solution of RetailNext from US. In fact the powerful presence of some in-store analytic companies in China often tend to have international background.

In many ways, traditional retailers in China already realized the importance of using retail analytics and innovative technology to secure a competitive advantage in a battle in which e-commerce has been continuously gaining the upper-hand. In store analytics&technology seem to be the final bazooka to combat the dominance of e-commerce. Globally speaking, it is no surprise that retail industry is gradually shifting toward implementing more advanced data analytics and smart technology in order to track and anticipate customer behaviors; as such urge is apparently becoming the matter of “Do or Die” faced by many retailers today.

Cecilia Wu

A witty, nutty and frosty writer who hopes to jot down moments of inspiration from her daily life

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