Startup Spotlight: Technologies on the Rise
When you think of “startups” and “innovation,” physical security and store traffic may not be the first things that spring to mind. But this month’s group of startups shows that every corner of retail is ripe for disruption. From rolling robots and microfencing to high-tech floor mats, one-click ordering and tools for selling to potential franchisees, these emerging companies prove that one great idea is all you need to do things differently.
Forget geofencing: 2016 is all about the microfence. At least, that’s what Digital Factory, with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles, is hoping. The startup takes the geofencing concept — in which companies create a virtual barrier around a physical area in order to push relevant messages, promotions and content to consumers’ mobile devices — to the next level, by shrinking the targeted area to a footprint as small as a street corner.
Whereas geofencing covers a wide area and tends to enable generically relevant messaging (eg, “You’re in our store! Here’s 20 percent off”), Digital Factory’s microfencing platform strives to push out hyper-relevant messages, such as reminding a shopper in the supermarket dairy aisle to purchase a gallon of milk. The company claims microfencing helps brands better engage with consumers who have already chosen to download their apps. Because the shopper has made the decision to opt in to the app, messages from that particular brand are less likely to be seen as unwelcome or intrusive, according to Digital Factory.
Star Wars fans, rejoice: an R2D2-like robot may be coming to a shopping mall parking lot or office campus near you. Knightscope, a Silicon Valley-based security tech firm, launched the K5 Autonomous Data Machine robot in response to the Boston Marathon and Sandy Hook tragedies, believing that data can improve upon human security efforts. The rolling robot incorporates a variety of sensors and cameras to gather and transmit data continuously as it patrols a specific geofenced area. It’s designed to enhance existing security efforts and not replace human resources, giving security personnel additional intelligence streams so they can make smarter decisions in real time.
At more than 5 ft. tall and weighing about 300 pounds, the K5 is designed to deter potential criminals and features an emergency call button that your employees or customers can engage if they feel threatened. Knightscope claims the device can safely navigate crowds and avoid potential hazards such as a vehicle backing up, and usually travels at 1-3 miles per hour, though it can accelerate to higher speeds if necessary. The device can be remote-wiped in the event of loss or theft in order to maintain data security.
As if apps and Amazon don’t make ordering simple enough, kwik wants to take it one step further. Just press a kwik button, and your order is sent and on its way to your door. That’s it. The value proposition lies with consumers who place frequent repeat orders for popular commodities such as dog food and diapers or favorite consumables such as coffee pods and pizza. It’s also useful for services such as laundry and dry cleaning, summoning a car service, or scheduling a package delivery. Kwik buttons can stand on their own or be embedded into other devices. Once consumers set up their payment and delivery information and preferences with a participating brand, simply pressing the kwik button is all they need to do to re-order a favorite, frequent purchase.
Behind the scenes, kwik’s IoT platform lets brands connect their own payment and delivery systems or sync up with third-party providers. The company’s dashboard lets users monitor KPIs including clicks and conversion rates. kwik says its handy buttons engage customers, boost orders and increase loyalty.
Want to know exactly where your shoppers and patrons are going inside your four walls? Scanalytics’ high-tech floor mats are designed to be hidden beneath your building’s carpeting and flooring and collect critical information on literally every step your customers take. The intelligent floor mats monitor foot traffic so that companies gain valuable insights into consumer behavior. If a shopper is lingering for more than a preset time in front of a particular shelf or display, for example, a retailer can dispatch a nearby associate to determine if that customer requires assistance. This is a key part of Scanalytics’ goal of helping its customers create a more engaging and responsive environment.
According to Fract, 83% of businesses fail simply because of their location, but this startup is aiming to change all that by helping companies “create territories that work.” The company’s cloud-based platform helps businesses identify suitable new geographic territories based on a number of demographic characteristics such as population, race, median household income, age, percentage of college degree holders and unemployment rate.
Armed with this concrete data, a business is better equipped to sell a particular territory to a potential franchisee and do its part to help ensure that new outpost’s success. Fract’s user-friendly, visually rich platform makes it easy for businesses to build and tweak territories and share them seamlessly with prospects.
Anne Marie Stephen is the CEO and founder of KWOLIA [email protected] (@AnneMarie_ams).
Apple Pay – coming soon to a mobile site near you
Apple Pay may finally be getting ready to move beyond mobile apps into the world of mobile browsers. According to Re/Code, Apple has been quietly notifying potential partners that the mobile payment service will be available via the Safari browser on iPhones and iPads that are equipped with Apple’s TouchID fingerprint technology, before the 2016 holiday season. This would directly compete with a similar browser-based mobile payment service offered by PayPal. [Re/Code]
Ebates aims for stronger mobile position
Online cashback shopping platform Ebates is branching more heavily into the mobile shopping arena with the acquisition of mobile product discovery app Shopular.
Redwood City, California-based Shopular has more than a million users and offers an intuitive product discovery experience and mobile shopping alerts. Leveraging proprietary geo-targeting technology, the app notifies consumers with relevant deals and coupons when they are near select stores.
Following the acquisition by San Francisco, San Francisco-based Ebates, a subsidiary of global Internet services company Rakuten, Shopular will introduce cash back shopping to its users. Founders Navneet Loiwal and Tommy Tsai will remain with the company as general managers of the Shopular business, leading technology development and the cash back integration.
Ebates hopes the acquisition will strengthen its position in the mobile shopping category by offering its shoppers relevant deals and coupons directly on their mobile phones. Terms were not disclosed.
“Shopular is the perfect partner to help us maximize our growth in the online and mobile commerce category,” said Kevin H. Johnson, CEO of Ebates. “With today’s consumers going mobile, it’s more important than ever to provide the right technologies to help them get the best deals, at the right time, as quickly as possible. We believe that the addition of Shopular to the Ebates family is the next step to making this happen.”
Ebates also recently launched an integration that will let its users make purchases from e-commerce platform Shopify. Clearly the company is looking to expand its reach across various digital platforms, which in today’s highly fragmented online marketplace is not a bad idea.