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Storeplacer rejuvenates retailer’s data for improved decision making and app development
I started filming my web series on April 20 and I needed two tablecloths: one green, one navy and a reversible basketball jersey. I didn’t have time to hustle to Sears, Kohl’s and JC Penney so I bought them on Amazon. One shop stopping with one click and they’ll arrive at my door.
Those purchases are minute compared to other shoppers, but as a consumer, I still represent a challenge for big box retailers: I need a product, I need it now and if I can’t find it quickly, I’ll go online and have it sent to me.
I spoke with Jason Lobel, co-founder and CEO, of Storeplacer to hear how they’re helping retailers use their data to make decisions and sell more products to consumers like me through just about any device.
What’s the big challenge for big box retailers today?
I spent the last 10 years in investment banking raising capital for tech companies and what we noticed was big growth in mobile and social networks was causing consumers to discover and purchase products in new ways. This is a big challenge for big box retailers because they want to create amazing shopping experiences for their customers, but have significant investments in legacy databases. And it’s really costly and time consuming to invest in a new database and build new applications from scratch. Most have a lot of departments (marketing, sales, catalog, Internet, in store, advertising, etc.) that operate in silos. They have a lot of brick and mortar stores feeding data into their system. There’s more connected devices in our homes and in our pockets talking to each other and when consumers want something, they don’t want to wait to buy it later, they want to buy it now.
It’s a lot of data and a lot of moving parts, so it’s hard making sense of all it – who the customer is, how they shop, when they shop and when and where they view products.
How does Storeplacer address their challenge?
Our goal is to give retailers tools to deliver the right product, to the right customer through the right channel at the right time. We provide a data aggregation, delivery and analytics platform to help them do that.
We work on the backend so they can focus on developing the front end. Basically, our technology sits on top of their database and not only allows retailers to use their data more efficiently to make decisions, but also develop apps more quickly.
We aggregate data from the retailer’s databases, put it into a dataset built to process unlimited data, push it to the cloud and give retailers a way to distribute the data on demand so that they can react to markets faster. We give them infrastructure so if they want to build a prediction engine or a universal customer profile connecting mobile apps, web, in store, catalog, etc. they can aggregate data from those systems and have a single place to access that information.
Why are open data and APIs so important?
Different retailers have different challenges with data. For example, a retailer has 5,000 stores and they want to enable buy and in store pick up. They would send us all that data and query that in couple milliseconds and know that t-shirt in Chicago is in stock and $5 and $6 in New York. If they want to run a hyper local advertisement using that data, they can. We have a security layer, so partners can access the data as well.
Providing access to partners is important because it can create an entire ecosystem and benefit all the partners involved. A large electronics retailer, for example, created a couple hundred million dollars of incremental revenue by putting all their product/offer data online, developers embedded that information into another consumer facing application, people clicked on those products and the storefront earned affiliate revenue at the retailer.
If the consumer buys that product using a bank rewards program, they get points for buying that product in the retailer’s system. The retailer can showroom that product at another retailer using the Red Laser app, which allows consumers to scan barcodes to find the product online, at a different store, at the lowest price, and the retailer can process payments through another application. Other large retailers are launching their API programs in 2013, so, for example, you could print an Instragram photo at a chain convenience store and pick it up.
Open data creates lots of new ways for retailers to grow their business and its very complex to build infrastructure. We can go in to retailers that have a lot of data, but don’t have the infrastructure to build it themselves. Do these retailers want to try and build infrastructure or outsource to us? We provide an extracted layer of technology. They don’t have to rip anything out. They feed us data into our system and we provide a place for them to build applications – customer facing apps, dashboards for business intelligence, predictive algorithms, etc.
We open their systems up and when they’re open, they’re very agile, so if they want to build an app, they can build in two weeks vs. six months.
What are the typical ways a retailer might use Storeplacer?
1) Product data – We can give open access to product catalog online and offline and a developer platform to build a consumer experience.
2) Universal customer profiles for more personalized offers. That’s a big complex one – what a consumer purchased, viewed and all the Web/mobile/app/in store/email data that a retailer has regarding what a consumer purchased over time so the retailer can hopefully recommend products to the consumer and do more personalization. That’s a very big challenge for big box retailers.
3) What questions do you want to answer about your business? You can feed us data into our system and we can try to answer those questions using machine learning algorithms. On site search – you know keywords and you have matching analytics on what people clicked through and what they bought and average order value. We can send that data in to predict how you should be ranking those keywords to get the highest average order value or highest conversion so a retailer is showing relevant products for what a consumer is searching for.
Most of these tools are for developers. A lot of these challenges involve lots of data from multiple systems, so we’re taking it and creating more value out of it. The retailer can use the data any way they want to, we’re just going to make the data available and get it to them super fast.
The developer has to do almost no work for the developer to learn the platform. They can use a single backend for many front end experiences. They don’t have to maintain or configure servers.
We launched beta in January. We have some incredible opportunities that we’re working on.
We participated in the Harvard Innovation Project in March, which brings together senior executives and elite innovators from literally every established payments company worldwide, along with the CEOs of the most innovative start-ups in the space. Its goal is to change the way that the payments and its broader commerce ecosystem thinks, talks, delivers and ignites innovation.
We get data faster so retailers can make better decisions quicker. Some retailers are interested in using us to push data from seven different locations, aggregating it and analyzing it. Some want to send us point of sale data so they have real time access to it. Some are interested in creating an API really quickly so they can do a partnership. They may have a system that pushes a feed and we can push out a different coding language or modernize their data.
On Thursday, April 25th, we have an event for Big Data Week and some big retailers are involved. We are covering topics such as open data, structured/unstructured analysis, APIs, data quality and SEO. Here are the details. http://www.illinoistech.org/event.aspx/11021
What keeps you up at night?
The belief that others with more capital and resources are trying to solve this problem, too.
Ever feel like there’s another competitor out there trying to do what your company is doing. If so, what advice would you give Jason?
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