“A better way”: Startups are raising millions to bring tech solutions to retail

retail tech easter 2022 trading rules economy pensioners pension

There are nearly 30,000 retail vacancies, and pensioners could help fill the gap. Source: Unsplash/Kentaro Toma.

Retail tech startups are raking in millions in investment as business owners embrace technology in a post-COVID-19 environment.

This week, Kepler Analytics raised $22 million for its in-store retail analytics tech, which uses sensors to capture data on shopper behaviour.

The anonymised data can give brick-and-mortar retailers insights such as how many people walk past a store compared to how many come in; how long they stay, and what they buy.

It essentially makes the customer journey tracking information available to e-commerce retailers available to physical stores, too.

Elsewhere, machine learning platform Remi.ai has closed a $1.44 million seed round.

The startup’s Software-as-a-Service artificial intelligence tool is able to forecast demand for products and manage inventory and replenishment of stock accordingly.

Already counting the likes of Coca-Cola and Microsoft among its customers, Remi.ai saw annual recurring revenue triple in 2021.

There is increasing demand for automation, co-founder Eamonn Barrett tells SmartCompany.

“So many places that are still using spreadsheets to make decisions are looking for a better way,” he says.

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Remi.ai co-founder Eamonn Barrett. Source: supplied.

The explosion of retail tech comes at a time when businesses are grappling with supply chain challenges and skyrocketing shipping costs, as well as the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barrett stresses that for some of these challenges — staff shortages due to illness, for example — there is no technology to bridge the gap. However in some instances there are tools available to help soften the blow.

Remi.ai, for example, allows for optimisation of shipping orders, making sure containers are full to the brim and that retailers are getting the best bang for their buck.

COVID-19 a turning point for retail tech

It is well documented that the pandemic massively accelerated a shift to e-commerce. However it has also driven the uptake of — and investment in — tech solutions in brick-and-mortar stores too.

In fact, Barrett says the crisis has “probably accelerated trends that were already in motion”.

Retailers were already looking for more data streams, and processes to help them glean helpful insight from that data. These are businesses that can be heavily affected by external forces — and nothing has proven that like the past two years.

“If there are software solutions out there that can help retailers to better manage those areas, then they’re absolutely pushing towards that.”

In some ways, Barrett says this has been on the cards for 20 years or more, ever since Amazon came onto the scene with its focus on tech and its super-efficient distribution centres, logistics networks and marketplaces.

Over the past few years many other more ‘traditional’ businesses have changed their own practices to try to keep up.

That trend is not going to stop, he adds.

“More businesses are going to be pushing further to introduce more advanced technology.”

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