Wired magazine recently listed seven retail technology start-ups to watch following its Wired Retail conference in London in October. The list includes Stowga, a marketplace for warehouses that was declared Winner of the Startup Showcase at the event, along with several others.
One of the other big businesses to watch, Boldmind, is an Internet of Things company that creates apps and helps retailers access data from connected services, which could help increase retailers' foot traffic.
Another startup to watch, according to Wired, is BuzzStreets, a "door-to-door navigation system for shopping malls, airports and hospitals." In essence, it's a location navigation solution likened to GPS, but that can also be used indoors, a concept that certainly could appeal to shoppers trying to find their way around the mega-mall.
Stowga's model has been compared to Airbnb, while Wired described it as "the only marketplace for warehouses." The company provides retailers with on-demand access to warehouse space, the aim of which is to allow businesses more flexibility in scaling their logistics. It's pretty good for warehouses, too, since unused space for them means lost revenue. According to the report, the start-up has worked with a number of U.K. retailers since its launch last year.
Other startups making the Wired list included: Localisto, a company working with retailers on online-to-offline marketing plans to increase foot traffic; MishiPay, a start-up touting a three-click, "theft-proof mobile self-checkout" app, already being used in the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany; Wonder, a firm that allows customers to rent brand new technology products for a few days at a time without having to purchase them outright; and Brewgooder, a craft brewer which donates 100% of its profits to clean water charities and projects.
All of these start-ups are building on promising concepts that should appeal to the retail sector in one way or another. A few of them, as noted by Wired, are already making impacts with retail clients. Mobile payments, especially, have been a point of improvement for retailers this year, with Target investing in customer self-checkout technology, and just this week announcing a mobile wallet feature, which should let customers pay with a scan of their phone. The move towards fast checkout has also been taken up by Walmart and Amazon, both of which have tested scan-and-go technologies recently.
Wonder's concept of rentable technology is also an interesting one, reminiscent of similar moves in apparel, such as ThirdLove's unique "try before buying" approach to selling bras, as well as Rent the Runway's approach to formal wear, which customers often don't want to spend a lot of money on. It's unclear whether the same model will transfer to electronics, but with how pricey some new technologies can be, being able to try the product out could give customers a sense of ease and calm their fears of buyer's remorse.
As 2018 opens, retailers will be watching these startups (and what they're doing) closely — perhaps even with some interest in investing or acquiring them.