Startups are outfitting retailers with augmented reality, beacons, wearables, and more to bridge the gap between digital and physical shopping.
Brick-and-mortar retail is a high-stakes business. And, while it might seem as if e-commerce has taken over, Americans still do roughly 90% of our shopping in physical stores. In fact, one of the latest trends in retail is the launch of physical stores by digital-native companies, including Amazon, Bonobos, and Warby Parker.
To help retailers bridge the gap between digital and physical commerce, and keep up with e-commerce competitors, dozens of startups have developed in-store technology ranging from shelf-stocking robots, to augmented reality displays, to Wi-Fi-based beacons that collect data on shopper behavior. Many companies focus on optimizing existing store operations with the injection of cloud-based software and mobile apps, helping retailers manage things like employee scheduling, mobile payments, coupons, and shelf stocking. Others have paved entirely new paths for data collection and shopper engagement — startups in the most crowded categories in the market map, specifically location analytics & proximity marketing, use IoT hardware and/or smartphone-sensing software to track shoppers throughout the store.
Others leverage frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual reality, and robotics. InContext Solutions, for example, helps retailers and brands plan better store layouts and displays in virtual reality, while Satisfi leverages AI from IBM Watson to develop real-time, in-store chatbots for retailers.
Using CB Insights data, we identified startups enhancing the in-store experience with digital tools. Our market map spans companies targeting retailers broadly, including apparel and luxury retailers, grocery stores, and department stores. We previously looked at startups serving grocery businesses here (many of which are included in this map), and separately, looked at startups serving restaurants here. Scroll down to view the infographic and read more about the categories we identified.
Our market map includes private companies that have raised funding since 2013. This infographic is not meant to be exhaustive of companies in the space. This post was updated in May 2017.
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Augmented/Virtual Reality Tools – Startups that leverage augmented or virtual reality to aid retailers in layout of stores and the design of promotional displays. InContext Solutions, which has worked with clients like Walmart, Nestle, and Kellogg’s, lets brands visualize marketing concepts and test new designs on shoppers in virtual reality to gauge their efficacy before launch. Augment aims to help brands, such as General Mills, L’Oreal, and Coca-Cola, pitch their vending machines, kiosks, or merchandise displays to retailers by showing how they would look in augmented/virtual reality.
Customer Loyalty – Reward and loyalty platforms for retailers. Thirdshelf provides white-label loyalty program software, while Dealyze installs tablets by the cash register to encourage loyalty program signup and let customers track their rewards. LevelUp lets customers pay by phone and earn rewards.
Digital & Interactive Displays – Companies that provide stores with connected digital signs to advertise products inside stores, provide shoppers with product information, or let stores adjust product pricing in real-time. For example, Ksubaka provides “playSpot” kiosks with gamification features on tablets advertising products. Ksubaka works with brands such as Coca-Cola, Nescafe, Dove, Colgate, and Kellogg’s in stores throughout Asia. Enplug, with over $2.5M in disclosed funding, offers digital display screens to stores and outdoor malls.
Dressing Room Tech – These startups produce technology to be used in the dressing room. Oak Labs created an interactive, touchscreen mirror that lets shoppers request new items, adjust fitting room lighting, and see outfit recommendations. The mirror can sense which products the shopper brought into the room using RFID technology, and then present related products, save the items to shoppers’ online accounts, or display related items. Oak has worked with retailers including Polo Ralph Lauren.
Guest Wi-Fi – Startups that enable free in-store Wi-Fi for retailers. The companies generally use the Wi-Fi to track shoppers and provide stores with customer analytics. Zenreach, for example, has raised $80M from investors including First Round Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, and 8VC. Cloud4Wi, with its Volare guest Wi-Fi and analytics platform, works with Clarks, Bulgari, Armani, Prada, and retailers.
In-Store Bots and Chatbots – Fellow Robots and Simbe Robotics launched robots that can act as store associates, checking store shelves and guiding customers throughout the store. Fellow Robots recently launched its Navii robot in 11 Lowe’s stores in California, while Simbe has tested its Tally robot in Target. Satisfi, on the other hand, provides a mobile app leveraging artificial intelligence to help shoppers in-store; it recently piloted its app in conjunction with IBM Watson in Macy’s.
In-Store Financing – Startups that let shoppers instantly apply for and receive loans or installment plans while shopping in-store. Blispay, with $14M in funding from investors including NEA, lets users apply for financing on their phones while in-store.
Inventory Management – Startups that help stores track inventory and optimize merchandising, generally use cloud-based software. Some, such as Celect and Blue Yonder, also use artificial intelligence to provide predictive merchandising analytics.
Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing – Companies that provide hardware and software to help stores track visitors. Many focus on data collection for internal analytics, such as merchandise tracking, adjusting staffing levels, monitoring promotions, etc. Euclid Analytics, for example, tracks visitors to monitor the impact of promotions on driving store visits and to better understand when people visit stores and specific aisles. Others focus on proximity marketing to shoppers while in or near stores. For example, Estimote provides small, colorful beacons that send push notifications to users’ phones about products or promotions when it senses someone near. This category includes the most well-funded company in the graphic: RetailNext, with $189M in funding, offers traffic sensors, customer route mapping, mobile marketing, and more.
Music Systems – Startups that help stores manage their in-store music playlists. Soundtrack Your Brand is backed by Spotify.
Omnichannel Analytics – Platforms integrating in-store and e-commerce analytics for a more seamless shopper experience. For example, ShoppinPal helps retailers digitize their store and payment management and integrate inventory across brick-and-mortar and e-commerce channels. OneView Commerce aims to better engage multi-channel shoppers.
Packaging Tech – Startups that add features to product labels to provide more information for shoppers. Label Insight, which has raised $12.9M, automatically generates QR codes for CPG products, which the shopper can scan to see detailed ingredient and nutritional information.
Pop-Ups & Kiosks – Startups creating new models for the layout of physical retail. Withme, with $32.8M in funding, manages high-end pop-up shops for retailers and brands, while B8ta ($17M) operates several retail locations focused on “showrooming,” a changing selection of tech products to try to help retailers benefit when shoppers view items in person and then buy online.
Shopping Cart Tech – Startups that outfit shopping carts with digital features. For example, Focal Systems aims to equip existing shopping carts with computer tablets, which can use machine vision to monitor the shelves as the cart moves through the store, and also display digital ads to the shopper.
Smart Reciepts & Ratings – Startups that provide digital add-ons to the checkout process for customers in-stores. TruRating and Wyzerr solicit satisfaction ratings from shoppers at the checkout counter. FlexReceipts and Ecrebo can add personalized offers and incentives to shoppers’ receipts, aiming to attract return visits.
Shelf Monitoring – Startups that help consumer packaged goods brands monitor the presentation of their merchandise on store shelves and track the results of in-store promotions and visual displays. Some rely on in-store cameras and artificial intelligence features, while others leverage crowdsourced intelligence from shoppers and store associates. For example, Repsly, with $3.5M in disclosed funding, offers a SaaS platform for field teams that captures visual data inside retail stores. Eversight, which raised $25.2M and hit a valuation of $50.8M in 2016, monitors the performance of products on shelves and uses machine learning to optimize product promotions.
Store Management/ POS Systems – Broad platforms that help retailers manage merchandise, process payments, manage employees, etc., allowing for the handling of many of the operations of the store from one application. These startups include some of the most well-funded in the category, including Lightspeed POS with $126M, and Shopkeep POS with $97.2M.
Workforce Tools – A variety of messaging tools and planning platforms for retail store staff. Branch, for example, offers internal messaging networks for retail employees, and Salesfloor provides software that helps associates maintain consistent relationships with customers across store and online channels.
|Augment||Augmented/Virtual Reality Tools||Salesforce Ventures|
|Experenti||Augmented/Virtual Reality Tools||N/A|
|InContext Solutions||Augmented/Virtual Reality Tools||Hyde Park Venture Partners, Plymouth Ventures|
|Trillenium||Augmented/Virtual Reality Tools||ASOS Ventures|
|AppCard||Customer Loyalty||Founders Fund, Innovation Endeavors, Peter Thiel|
|Belly||Customer Loyalty||Andreessen Horowitz, Lightbank, NEA, Cisco Investments, 7-Ventures|
|Dealyze||Customer Loyalty||Y Combinator|
|FiveStars||Customer Loyalty||DCM Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures|
|Ibotta||Customer Loyalty||Great Oaks Venture Capital|
|Koupon||Customer Loyalty||Mercury Fund, Trailblazer Capital|
|LevelUp||Customer Loyalty||Google Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, Balderton Capital|
|Perkville||Customer Loyalty||Sand Hill Angels, Xandex Investments, Fifth Era|
|Signpost||Customer Loyalty||Spark Capital, Scout Ventures, Google Ventures|
|Thirdshelf||Customer Loyalty||iNovia Capital|
|Zap||Customer Loyalty||Kickstart Ventures, Wavemaker Partners, Seawood Resources|
|Aila||Digital & Interactive Displays||Romulus Capital, Bolt Innovation Group|
|Cloudtags||Digital & Interactive Displays||Knoll Ventures, Foundry Group, IDEA Fund Partners|
|Enplug||Digital & Interactive Displays||500 Startups, #Dominate Fund|
|EyeQ||Digital & Interactive Displays||Corsa Ventures, DreamIt Ventures|
|Ksubaka||Digital & Interactive Displays||N/A|
|Moki||Digital & Interactive Displays||Epic Ventures, Allegis Capital|
|Shopper Media||Digital & Interactive Displays||Blue Sky Private Equity|
|Vengo||Digital & Interactive Displays||VTF Capital, BoxGroup|
|Memomi||Dressing Room Tech||N/A|
|Oak Labs||Dressing Room Tech||Wing Venture Capital, R/GA Accelerator|
|Cheerfy||Guest Wi-Fi||Metro Accelerator|
|Cloud4Wi||Guest Wi-Fi||United Ventures, Opus Capital|
|iI2e1||Guest Wi-Fi||Growx Ventures Management, Singapore Angel Network|
|Purple WiFi||Guest Wi-Fi||Juno Capital|
|Socifi||Guest Wi-Fi||Keiretsu Forum|
|Zenreach||Guest Wi-Fi||8VC, First Round Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, Felicis Ventures|
|Cosy||In-Store Bots & Chatbots||Intel Capital, GreatPoint Ventures|
|Fellow Robots||In-Store Bots & Chatbots||HAX, Crowdfunder|
|Satisfi||In-Store Bots & Chatbots||Stadia Ventures, DreamIt Ventures|
|Simbe Robotics||In-Store Bots & Chatbots||HAX, Pillar, Cherubic Ventures|
|SpruceBot||In-Store Bots & Chatbots||Spruce|
|Blispay||In-Store Financing||Accomplice, NEA, FirstMark Capital|
|Divido||In-Store Financing||BMW Innovation Lab, DN Capital, Mangrove Capital Partners|
|FinanceIt||In-Store Financing||IA Capital Group, TTV Capital, FinSight Ventures|
|LendPro||In-Store Financing||CIT GAP Funds|
|LoanHero||In-Store Financing||Alsop-Louie Partners, Mucker Capital, evoNexus|
|Snap Finance||In-Store Financing||Peterson Ventures|
|Vyze||In-Store Financing||Austin Ventures, StarVest Partners|
|Zibby||In-Store Financing||Victory Park Capital, Blumberg Capital, Tribeca Venture Partners|
|Blubirch||Inventory Management||Chicago Capital Ventures|
|Blue Yonder||Inventory Management||Warburg Pincus|
|Celect||Inventory Management||In-Q-Tel, August Capital, Activant Capital Group|
|Inturn||Inventory Management||Forerunner Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures|
|Nextail||Inventory Management||Nauta Capital|
|Pointy||Inventory Management||Frontline Ventures, AIB Seed Capital Fund|
|Revionics||Inventory Management||Sierra Ventures, Blumberg Capital, Goldman Sachs|
|ShoppinPal||Inventory Management||Steelhead Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures|
|Skupos||Inventory Management||Toba Capital|
|Stitch Labs||Inventory Management||True Ventures, Triangle Peak Partners|
|Unleashed||Inventory Management||K1W1, Milford Asset Management|
|Aislelabs||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Rho Ventures, Salesforce Ventures|
|Beabloo||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Baozun|
|Bfonics||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||N/A|
|Cintric||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||The EW Scripps Company|
|Databerries||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Index Ventures, Mosaic Ventures|
|Density||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Dawn Patrol, Upfront Ventures, Ludlow Ventures|
|Dor||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Zetta Venture Partners, Bolt Innovation Group|
|Ebizu||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Cradle Fund|
|Estimote||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Bessemer Venture Partners, Innovation Endeavors|
|Euclid Analytics||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Harrison Metal, NEA, Benchmark|
|Footmarks||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Commerce.Innovated|
|Gravy Analytics||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Gaspar Global Ventures, Gannett, MetTel, Loeb Partners|
|Grey Jean Technologies||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Cosmas Wong|
|Kontakt.io||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Credo Ventures, Sunstone Capital|
|Movvo||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Caixa Capital|
|PlaceIQ||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||IA Ventures, kbs+ Ventures, US Venture Partners, Valhalla Partners|
|Plexure||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Vix Investments|
|Radius8||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Commerce Ventures, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures|
|Radius Networks||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Core Capital Partners, Contour Venture Partners|
|RetailNext||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||August Capital, Commerce Ventures, Nokia Growth Partners, StarVest Partners|
|Rover||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||500 Startups, BDC Venture Capital|
|Scanalytics Inc.||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Wearable IoT World Labs|
|Sensorberg||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||WestTech Ventures, Berlin Technologie Holding|
|ShopAdvisor||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Seavest Capital Partners|
|Swirl Networks||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Twitter Ventures, Longworth Venture Partners, Softbank Capital|
|Tamecco||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Yume no Machi SoZo Iinkai|
|Unacast||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Investinor, Open Ocean Capital|
|Viewsy||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Qualcomm Ventures, Kima Ventures|
|Walkbase||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||SBT Venture Capital|
|What the Shop||Location Analytics & Proximity Marketing||Numa|
|Atmo Select||Music Systems||SA Framtak|
|Rockbot||Music Systems||Detroit Venture Partners, Susa Ventures, Google Ventures|
|Soundtrack Your Brand||Music Systems||Spotify, Creandum, Northzone Ventures|
|7lytix||Omnichannel Analytics||CFP Holding|
|Brickwork||Omnichannel Analytics||Cowboy Ventures, Forerunner Ventures, Beanstalk Ventures|
|Index||Omnichannel Analytics||General Catalyst Partners, Innovation Endeavors, Khosla Ventures|
|Newstore||Omnichannel Analytics||General Catalyst Partners|
|OneView Commerce||Omnichannel Analytics||N/A|
|Welcome Commerce||Omnichannel Analytics||FirstMark Capital, Commerce Ventures, BoxGroup, Lerer Hippeau Ventures|
|Wynd||Omnichannel Analytics||Orange Digital Ventures, Alven Capital, BPI France|
|Blippar||Packaging Tech||Qualcomm Ventures, Khazanah Nasional Berhad|
|Blue Bite||Packaging Tech||N/A|
|Label Insights||Packaging Tech||Cultivation Capital, Mercury Fund, KPMG Capital, dunnhumby Ventures|
|ScanLife||Packaging Tech||Masthead Venture Partners, Hudson Ventures, Motorola Solutions Venture Capital|
|Appear Here||Pop-Ups & Kiosks||MMC Ventures, Balderton Capital, Playfair Capital, Simon Venture Group|
|B8ta||Pop-Ups & Kiosks||Eniac Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Macerich|
|Bulletin||Pop-Ups & Kiosks||Notation Capital|
|Firsthand||Pop-Ups & Kiosks||Y Combinator|
|Freeosk||Pop-Ups & Kiosks||Beringea, First Analysis|
|StoreKing||Pop-Ups & Kiosks||Mangrove Capital Partners, Axiata Digital Innovation Fund|
|The New Stand||Pop-Ups & Kiosks||N/A|
|Withme||Pop-Ups & Kiosks||Macerich, VTF Capital|
|Clic and Walk||Shelf Monitoring||Breega Capital, CITA Investissement|
|Envysion||Shelf Monitoring||Bear Equity, Columbia Capital, High Country Venture|
|Eversight||Shelf Monitoring||Emergence Capital Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures|
|GoSpotCheck||Shelf Monitoring||Insight Venture Partners, Venture51|
|Mobee||Shelf Monitoring||Flint Capital, Accomplice, Stage 1 Ventures|
|Prism Skylabs||Shelf Monitoring||Triangle Peak Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Data Collective, Intel Capital|
|Quri||Shelf Monitoring||Catamount Ventures, Simon Equity Partners, Matrix Partners|
|Repsly||Shelf Monitoring||First Beverage Group, Launchpad Venture Group|
|Shelfbucks||Shelf Monitoring||Capital Factory|
|Shelvspace||Shelf Monitoring||Tallwave Capital, AngelList|
|Trax Image Recognition||Shelf Monitoring||Investec|
|Focal Systems||Shopping Cart Tech||SoftTech VC, Zetta Venture Partners|
|Smartcart||Shopping Cart Tech||Jarkko Veijalainen|
|Ecrebo||Smart Receipts & Ratings||Octopus Ventures|
|FlexReceipts||Smart Receipts & Ratings||The Angel Roundtable, venVelo, Struck Capital|
|TruRating||Smart Receipts & Ratings||SandAire|
|Wyzerr||Smart Receipts & Ratings||Connectic Ventures|
|BindoPOS||Store Management/POS Systems||East Ventures, Metamorphic Ventures|
|CardFlight||Store Management/POS Systems||ff Venture Capital, Payment Ventures, Atlas Venture, Great Oaks Venture Capital|
|Frogtek||Store Management/POS Systems||N/A|
|Inventorum||Store Management/POS Systems||Vogel Ventures, High-Tech Grunderfonds|
|Kaching||Store Management/POS Systems||Creades|
|Lightspeed POS||Store Management/POS Systems||Accel Partners, iNovia Capital|
|POSaBit||Store Management/POS Systems||N/A|
|Shopkeep POS||Store Management/POS Systems||Tribeca Venture Partners, TTV Capital, Canaan Partners|
|Squadle||Store Management/POS Systems||500 Accelerator, Bolt Innovation Group|
|Vend||Store Management/POS Systems||Point Nine Capital, Square Peg Capital, Valar Ventures|
|Branch||Workforce Tools||March Capital Partners, Techstars|
|Percolata||Workforce Tools||Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures|
|Predictspring||Workforce Tools||Beanstalk Ventures, Felicis Ventures|
|Qless||Workforce Tools||Wellington Financial|
|Reflexis||Workforce Tools||Pequot Venture Capital, Great Hill Partners|
|Salesfloor||Workforce Tools||White Star Capital, BDC Venture Capital|
|ShiftPlanning||Workforce Tools||Point Nine Capital, MHS Capital|
|Shyft||Workforce Tools||Madrona Venture Group|
|Theatro||Workforce Tools||Khosla Ventures, Aristos Ventures|
|Tulip Retail||Workforce Tools||BoxGroup, Jump Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures|
|Zinc||Workforce Tools||CRV, Emergence Capital Partners|
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