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How to Transform Your Business Model in the Retail Industry?


In our insights series of the retail industry, we examined the four defining trends before the Covid-19 crisis. Then, we talked about the increasingly ambivalent differentiation between the “online” and “offline” buying behaviours. In order to thrive, we argue that retail businesses should merge their online and brick-and-mortar insights. We believe that supplementing these two with a data-driven business strategy will be the ultimate recipe for a successful business.


In our final insights piece, we will answer the following question: What are some successful start-ups that can assist a retailer in gaining a competitive advantage? To answer this question, we compiled six start-ups that you should consider teaming up with. With their strong potential, we believe that they will enhance the retail customer experience through digitalisation.


So without further ado, here are the six start-ups that could be crucial for your business in becoming experts of online behaviour and in-store spatial behaviour:


  1. Vue.ai- California-based end-to-end retail automation platform specialised in Artificial Intelligence

Who they are and what they do:

In 2013, Ashwini Asokan and her husband Anand Chandrasekaran launched Mad Street Den. This start-up specialised in computer vision and artificial intelligence with the goal of building models of generalisable intelligence at scale. After acquiring extensive knowledge about the practical applications of these technologies, Ashwini and Anand started Mad Street Den’s first flagship vertical, Vue.ai in 2016. Since then, Vue.ai has had a meteoric success and is now a giant in the fashion retail industry. The products of Vue.ai rely on behavioural data, natural language processing (NLP) and image recognition. These technologies provide services such as AI-powered email marketing, digital model imagery and AI-powered product tagging.


Why you should team up with them:

Vue.ai is a well-established Visual AI platform that will enable you to develop better customer journey personalisation, more accurate visual merchandising and improved catalogue management leading to higher conversion rates, customer loyalty and satisfaction.


2. RevLifter- a clever tech business that delivers AI-driven personalised deals for customers


Who they are and what they do:

Having years of marketing and e-commerce experience, the founders of Revlifter, Simon Bird and Ryan Kliszat joined powers to address a quite salient yet overlooked issue: Online basket abandonment. To deal with this issue, RevLifter offers services that help online retailers in personalised incentivisation. By detecting whether customers tend to abandon their shopping carts, RevLifter’s software uses retention strategies and even automated pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine optimisation (SEO) processes to bring them back. From Asos to HP, RevLifter currently boasts a rich clientele.


Why you should team up with them:

RevLifter’s individualistic approach in tackling the basket abandonment problem will give your business a competitive advantage in optimising the digital retail experience.


3. Bluecore- a retail marketing technology that turns casual shoppers into lifetime customers


Who they are and what they do:

New York-based technology company Bluecore was founded by Fayez Mohamood, Mahmoud Arram and Max Bennett in 2013. Bluecore is an alternative channel to reach casual shoppers, capitalising on the shift to digital-first commerce. Using machine learning, their products gather data from channels such as email, social media and website activity to forecast customer behaviour. Based on shoppers’ onsite behaviour and other factors, the company uses technologies like artificial intelligence and determines the timing and content for the next-best communication.


Why you should team up with them:

Bluecore’s unique approach to marketing creates an opportunity for your business to reach the optimal product-customer fit without barraging your customers with never ending email newsletters.


4. AWM Smart Shelf- a company to reinvent the online experience for the in-store market place out of California


Who they are and what they do:

Augmenting the physical retail experience is one of the main trends of digitalisation in the retail industry. Smart Shelf’s hybrid approach to the traditional brick-and-mortar retail is the perfect embodiment of the ethos of combining the digital and the physical. Since their launch in 2016, the basic idea behind their products remains the same: They use digitalised shelf-edge displays by incorporating data gathered through precise optical sensors. By analyzing shoppers’ movements inside the store, the product displays can produce visual content relevant to the product type, customer demographics and consumer behaviour.


Why you should team up with them:

By partnering with Smart Shelf, your customers will get relevant marketing content within your physical space while you obtain valuable consumer insights turning ‘offline’ behaviour into data.


5. Retail Aware- Nebraska-based hardware/software company that provides real-time data using sensors


Who they are and what they do:

Retail Aware was founded by Keith Fix and Preston Badeer with the mission to connect the world's shelves by bringing data and visibility into physical execution. Towards this end, they position microsensors throughout the retail space to better analyze actual customer engagement with products. With this microsensor technology, the company supports retail manufacturers and their supply chains in optimising merchandising and increasing sales with real-time data and alerts.


Why you should team up with them:

Through a simple upgrade into shop surveillance provided by Retail Aware, your business can gain a huge advantage in store automation, self-monitoring and assortment optimisation.


6. Deep North- an American start-up that redefines video analytics


Who they are and what they do:

In a similar vein with Smart Shelf and Retail Aware, our last start-up Deep North specialises in in-store consumer behaviour. Since 2016, Deep North gives shopping malls, brick-and-mortar retail stores and transportation hubs the ability to use existing in-store cameras (or installs new ones) to improve the insights that can be gathered. With this technology, Deep North’s partners obtain a better understanding of in-store behaviour of their customers, optimise employee engagement and manage store conversions. It is important to note that while they provide their services, they adhere to the highest possible standards of anonymisation.


Why you should team up with them:

Deep North’s technology of deep learning and AI-based video analytics will let your business reclaim consumer traffic to create better customer experiences.


These are just a few examples of start-ups that can boost the retail industry with innovative technologies. For the future, upgrading business models by unifying online and offline customer experiences and adopting a data-driven strategy will pave the way for success. It is, therefore, crucial to pick partners that can help you address the areas of optimisation and develop an appropriate digital business plan of action for your unique challenges.



If you’re a retail business owner, we would love to hear what your specific challenges are. This way, we can design the right business model upgrade with the right innovation partners as your own business strategy consultant.


1. If your most pressing concern is New Revenue Generation, a great place to start is learning how to convert your casual shoppers into loyal customers. An example business model upgrade would allow you to:

  1. Profile new customers with the existing data they already have via for example search engines and analytics

  2. Offer the right products and services with the right proposition including discounts to aid a conversion at the right place and time (offline & online)


2. If you’re concerned about increasing your Recurring Revenue, it’s time to go beyond ‘retargeting’ solutions based on cookies. An example business model upgrade would allow you to:

  1. Use an ‘operating system’ to manage your entire business that allows you to customise your offerings and provide a personalised customer journey

  2. Diversify your offerings and expand your merchandise categories to provide more novelty and impulse buys


3. If you’re worried about Cost Reduction, Efficiency Gains and Sustainability, it is time to approach these from a data-driven perspective. An example business model upgrade would allow you to:

  1. Benefit from automation technologies

  2. Reduce your shipping costs by finding alternative methods

  3. Consider outsourcing your logistics and supply channel instead of maintaining your own distribution centre


4. Lastly, if you are looking for new ways to improve your B2B2C business, we have more suggestions for you. Currently, B2B2C businesses such as shopping malls experience difficulty in attracting real commercial activity and a loss of popularity. Especially with the current Covid-19 crisis, loss of physical customers due to health concerns and the switch to online shopping further complicated ongoing problems. If you already own or planning to own a B2B2C business, we suggest you to:

  1. Keep in mind that open-air malls may well be the future of physical retail. You should consider converting your venue to co-existing open-air and closed spaces - many such examples already exist in the UK and overseas. These businesses handled the pandemic much better than their closed space counterparts by offering a safer place for their customers.

  2. Utilise the latest technologies if converting your business is impossible. AI-related technologies, in particular, will help you thrive in the future.



This is an ongoing and everlasting journey. While you transform yourself, you will also become part of the future. Contact us via the form on our website.


By Navivest Research and Analysis Team