Three need-to-meet startups at to see the future of digital retail, plus the latest from Bazaarvoice

Every year I look forward to the Annual Summit. It brings together the smartest experts and entrepreneurs working in the digital retail space for discussions about the state of the industry and solutions to some of our biggest challenges. It’s an expansive showcase of innovation and insights.

There are a number of companies exhibiting this year that I’m excited to speak with, but I wanted to highlight three in particular that all of my retail friends should check out: Edgecase, Shelfbucks, and Together Mobile.

In the interest of disclosure, I’m an investor and/or advisor (Hurt Family Investmentsportfolio) in all three of these companies (and also a former three-term member of the Board of Directors). But there is a reason I’ve been impressed by these companies and believe in them and their value - and think retailers and brands should as well. They are all transforming multi-channel shopping in important ways. They are focused not only on conversion (still a primary pain-point in digital shopping) but also revolutionizing the customer experience.

So much of the experience of multi-channel retail in the past decade has been focused on social engagement and multichannel infrastructure. While those are of course necessary solutions for retailers, we can already see a trend emerging for the next great leap in the space, and those innovations are being led by wholly rethinking the shopping experience -- what it truly can and should be as we begin correlating shopper’s experiences across the online and offline divide.

These imperative experiential trends are evident in the three companies below. Edgecase’s unique mix of machine learning and human curation to produce an agile, adaptive online platform takes us beyond filtering for a more natural and intuitive shopping experience; Shelfbuck’s innovates in the opposite direction by bringing online comprehensiveness to stores with their out-of-the box beacon ecosystem; and Together Mobile bridges both experiences by integrating user-generated content into a their mobile-first marketing platform to add robust, curatable content around brand’s commerce owned-media properties.

You can read more about each of these companies below, or I encourage you to come their booths in the Annual Summit expo hall in Seattle Sept. 29 – Oct. 1 and see for yourself why I find them each remarkable in their own ways. I’ll be there too, and I hope to see you at the big event.

1. Edgecase

Edgecase recently rebranded from Compare Metrics, and their new identity expresses the broader ambitions of the Austin-based team behind their newly-launched Adaptive Experience Platform. Already transforming the online shopping experience for several top retailers, Edgecase empowers shoppers to discover products on their own terms through a proprietary combination of human content curation, adaptive navigation, and machine learning. The result is a more natural online shopping experience for customers that goes beyond filtering.

Retailers should take notice because not only are the dynamic experiences on Edgecase’s platform truly inspirational and transformative for shoppers, but they have proven to substantially increase conversions as well, including a 16% increase for Urban Decay and 186% higher conversion rates for Wasserstrom. All while maintaining brands’ identity and existing infrastructure with a seamless integration.

You can see an overview of the Edgecase solution in the video below, and also readthis TechCrunch article for more:

Visit Edgecase at booth #2811.

2. Shelfbucks

Shelfbucks is the leading in-store beacon ecosystem for top retailers and brands. Their out-of-the-box platform adds the power of your website to your physical store products, shelves, and displays. With Shelfbucks-enabled stores, shoppers use your existing mobile app to instantly receive a personalized web experience. You can deliver web campaigns including targeted marketing, product information, features, videos, ratings, reviews, promotions, or coupons, which will increase store conversion rates and drive increased average order value.

90% or more of a retailer's revenue is still made from their brick & mortar stores. Yet store shelves can't deliver a powerful web experience to shoppers. Stores also cannot easily measure performance of their campaigns to get data on store views, category views, campaign views, conversion rates, engagement rates, look-to-book rates, abandonment rates, and more. By enabling stores with Shelfbucks, retailers receive these powerful web features and capabilities in their stores.

Here are some recent statistics from Business Insider on the growth of beacons in retail:

  • U.S. retailers are moving quickly to adopt beacons to trigger location-based actions in apps.
  • Beacon install base should continue to double every six months through 2016.
  • There will be 3.5 million active beacons in retail stores by 2018.
  • Large retailers will adopt beacons the fastest amid intense competition by brick-and-mortar chains for traffic and sales.
  • Many of the top 100 retailers in the U.S. are testing beacons this year and we expect them to have this new technology installed in one-third of their stores by the end of 2015.
  • Beacons are compatible with about one-third of active smartphones globally and nearly all iPhones.

You can watch my video interview on Shelfbucks below from our Bazaarvoice Client Summit and also read this WSJ article about how Shelfbucks is working with GameStop in pioneering this new set of solutions.

Visit Shelfbucks at Booth #2904.

3. Together Mobile

Today’s consumers are “living” through their mobile devices and have the potential to provide brands with a rich source of inspirational content and data. While marketers and merchandizers understand the value of customer-generated media, they struggle with integrating this content and data throughout the commerce path to drive engagement and conversion.

Together’s User-Generated Content Marketing Platform solves this problem. Their innovative mobile-first collection suite captures photos, video, commentary, metadata, and location data directly from customers then automatically deploys this content throughout owned media, including eCommerce websites, brand websites, and apps. Fortune 500 and large retail brands rely on Together to capture around ten times more rich media and data than traditional approaches while creating captivating, personalized, and socially-trusted commerce experiences.

Below is an example of media capture with the Together platform that clients can configure in about 10 minutes. Together has a wide array of “Lego bricks” that can be snapped together in minutes by any marketer or merchandizer for rich HTML5 experiences that deliver on mobile, tablet, and desktop.

Media capture

In-browser editing

Intent questions

Media is integrated throughout the commerce flow including at the homepage, category pages, and detail pages. It is also syndicated into social media. The platform does this all automatically and it scales across hundreds of thousands of products and categories. Here are a couple examples with the last one being my favorite as it brings together a great visual user experience when shopping.

Media carousel with gesture support that integrates with brand and eCommerce sites and mobile apps

Shopper experience using photos, location data, and lightweight PDP integration

Together Mobile is not exhibiting at a booth but is attending the Summit for 1:1 meetings with their clients and new prospects. If you ping me, I’ll introduce you to their CEO to get on their schedule.

4. Bazaarvoice

Finally, this post would not be complete without the latest on Bazaarvoice who continues to rapidly pioneer in the social commerce industry. There are three new solutions that are definitely worth seeing. These were announced at the Bazaarvoice Summit earlier this year, and the videos below will give you an overview.

First, there is Bazaarvoice Curations, which is a solution we built on from our acquisition of FeedMagnet and allows you to pull rich customer-generated content from many popular social channels and display it where it can have the most impact on your sales.

Second, there is Bazaarvoice Local, which addresses a new need in the digital commerce marketplace - to capture and share service reviews through all owned locations (such as franchises).

Third, there is Bazaarvoice Sampling, which is geared to brands launching new consumer products with both a more accurate read on what their customers need and authentic customer reviews ready to go in the retail channel (leveraging the strength of Bazaarvoice's retail network of clients).

Finally, if you aren't using Bazaarvoice's new Trust Mark to communicate to your customers that you offer authentic customer reviews, you should consider doing so. You can read all about it here.

Visit Bazaarvoice at Booth #246.

It is an incredibly exciting time in digital retail overall, and I look forward to seeing you at the big show!