7 retail tech startups to watch in 2015
There’s no longer retail without tech, and the tech important to retail is an ever-evolving collection of apps, companies, gizmos, and startups.
While there isn’t any way to capture them all, here are seven tech startups (in no particular order) we believe hold a lot of promise and will likely make a difference in retail in the next year or so.
Two-year-old Menlo Park, CA-based Deliv is one of many players in the delivery wars. It rapidly expanded its roster of retail clients and services this year, and as long as this is a growing area for retail, Deliv appears ready to deliver at a highly disruptive price. Deliv doesn’t maintain its own fleet of delivery vehicles, which helps it maintain its $5-per-order price point for same-day delivery — cheaper than what many retailers charge for no-rush shipping of regular online orders.
The company is partnering not just with retailers but also with malls, an innovation that will likely resonate in cities and in areas whose malls are thriving.
Another delivery startup, Postmates has recently announced its development of an application-programming interface (API) to allow third-party sellers and apps. The move expands on existing Postmates programs like the one it runs with apparel and accessories retailer Everlane, which partnered with Postmates to help customers in San Francisco and New York receive orders within an hour.
It could also help expand Postmates as it enters more cities, including San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Austin, Miami, Orange County, San Diego, Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, and Washington D.C.
Another startup also based in Menlo Park, is a mysterious one; it too was originally thought to be a delivery service. We just found out about Enjoy in October and there are precious few details about its services or aims. But we’re including it because retail guru Ron Johnson is at the helm.
Johnson most recently had a notorious and ill-fated stint at J.C. Penney. But he is also the genius behind Apple’s highly successful physical retail stores, and, many years ago, some of the moves Target made bringing high-end design to middle-ground retail.
As far as we understand it, Johnson’s newest company will apparently be an e-commerce venture that allows consumers to navigate information about and try new, complicated, and perhaps pricey products and help them decide whether to buy, or which version or brand is best for them.
The venture has attracted $30 million in investments and people like former Apple executives Jerry McDougal and Tom Suiter, and former Facebook IT director Kunal Malik.
This Toronto-based startup aims to knock down the silos of information that plague retailers these days and hamper their decision-making. One of the pictures that is emerging from Rubikloud’s analytics is that e-commerce, even in the face of its surge, is still a small element in the mosaic that is retail. The company has grown from three people to 13 in just a few months, has attracted $1 million in seed funding this year, and will announce its product some time next year.
San Francisco-based point-of-sales software company Revel Systems this year raised some $100 million in Series C funding. The two-year-old company, like ShopKeep, Square, and Poynt, among others, has an unusual opportunity to install its systems, not because they are particularly disruptive, but because POS is in something of a disrupted state.
The company, founded two years ago, sells iPad-based POS systems for restaurants and retailers. It’s been growing steadily but could take off as retailers look to replace older systems in light of cybersecurity concerns and new rules requiring chip-and-PIN payment cards.
Palo Alto-based Poynt is run by former Google Wallet chief and former PayPal executive Osama Bedier, who has developed an Android-based system with a docking station. The system anticipates the changes that retailers need to make to their POS systems to better protect against cyber threats and can accept pretty much anything: magnetic stripe cards, EMV (or chip-and-PIN) cards, Near Field Communications systems like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, Bluetooth, QR codes, and beacons. Bedier calls it "future proofed."
The old magnetic strip cards of today have proven to be grossly inadequate against hackers, and retailers of all sizes will be changing their systems soon, if they haven't already. Poynt, whose terminals also provide retailers with inventory and other business information and analytics, aims to grab a good portion of that revolution, selling the terminals at cost and making its money through software sales.
Poynt is focusing first on smaller businesses, but is working to become a top choice of banks that work with retailers on preferred systems.
Toronto-based Slyce works with several major retailers to give them a capability similar to Amazon’s Flow (Firely on its Fire smartphone), which allows customers to scan items and buy them on Amazon. Slyce also has video and audio recognition, QR and barcode scanning, and Near Field Communications.
The startup announced this year that it has boosted its capabilities with its acquisition of Tel Aviv-based mobile shopping app Pounce, which scans photos of items and provides inventory and price information and a checkout process, for $5 million.
While Amazon’s Firefly leads to purchases in its retail site, Slyce brings that ability, where customers scan and buy desired merchandise, to all of its partnering retailers. With Pounce's added inventory and price and checkout capabilities, Slyce is an even more comprehensive way for retailers to combat Amazon’s advantage when it comes to showrooming.
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