18 startups poised to disrupt and drive the future of retail

From drones and bots to social shopping and smart e-receipts: NRF’s Artemis Berry gives us a rundown of the most thought-provoking pitches at NRFtech.

Aug 16, 2016 · 4 min read

Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook are just a few of the companies that are the pace cars in today’s innovation race. But there are thousands of other businesses just waiting to be discovered, ready to disrupt consumer behavior and retail as we know it.

Brian Sathianathan, Chief Digital Officer and co-founder of Iterate Studio, led the Tour of the Possible at NRFtech 2016.

For the second year in a row, attendees at NRFtech heard from 18 startups as a part of the “Tour of the Possible” program, curated by our great partners at Iterate Studio, a marketplace of startups indexing more than 135,000 companies focused on digital innovation.

Here’s a list of the 18 startups, who they are, what they do and why you should care.


flexReceipts — Smart e-receipts with more calls to action including mini-websites within email, enabling bricks-and-mortar customers to go beyond the initial sale with personal, targeted messages.

PiCoLabs — Store owners can instantly set up promotions at the cash register via scanner, and all pricing/promotions can be managed from any browser. POS reimagined, and in the cloud.

Chat Bots and Voice Activation

Dashbot — Provides conversational bot analytics to determine where communication with the consumer breaks down. The platform can also integrate with Slack. They had me at “sentiment analysis.”

Linc — Delivers automated shopping support anywhere, like Facebook Messenger, to turn micro-moments into macro gains to more than 30 enterprise customers and counting.

OneReach — Custom chat bots designed for SMS, Facebook and more. Kicking SMS up a notch for 200+ clients to date.

In-store Technology Re-imagined

IndoorAtlas — Magnetic map, powered by a phone’s built-in digital compass, that can be used for mobile apps, advertising, search, coupons and retail wayfinding.

VRCommerce — Can integrate with existing e-commerce platforms to create a fully immersive, virtual storefront.


Pinn — Unifies disparate sets of data like device fingerprinting, the way a person walks and other personal characteristics for frictionless, customer authentication.

QM Scientific — A recommendation and product search engine for grocers and brands to provide a customized experience.

Findmine — Cloud-based recommendation engine that pulls together complete fashion outfits around retailers’ product inventory, promising increased conversion rates and average order value along with delivering the style advice shoppers crave.

Social and Connected Commerce

Tapcentive — Gamified mobile campaigns for NFC, beacons, QR codes and custom events within apps. The Bay-area startup tackles gamification and local and mobile marketing to drive engagement.

Phrasetech — An automated way for retailers to create, manage and optimize all website text-based content on product pages.

Pcsso — Widget lets shoppers easily build and share outfits made from retailers’ inventory, converting pins to purchase on Pinterest. Social shopping meets AI.

Delivery and Fulfillment

CartFresh — High-tech shopping, fulfillment and last-mile delivery option for grocers.

Kibo Commerce — Streamlines omnichannel order fulfillment processes and connects legacy POS systems while connecting to new ones like buy online, pick up in store.

Aerobo — Builds and operates drones for companies across various industries. (Flirtey is another company that wasn’t on stage, but is worth checking out; don’t let Amazon drone alone.)

As a special bonus, two crowd favorites that were featured in last year’s Tour of the Possible joined us again:

Hiku — This company’s “shopping button” makes kitchens smarter with a magnetic device that sticks to the fridge, remembers your grocery list and shops for you. Some call it “frictionless shopping,” but I think of it as solving the “oh crap” moment when you forgot to purchase something at the store.

Twyst — This “Internet of Everything” tech company allows the anonymous tracking of shoppers as they move through the store, and “smart connected bags” can be embedded into any type of mobile checkout process. We learned at last month’s Digital Experience Workshop that Twyst is partnering with digital retailer eBags to create “the world’s smartest professional backpack,” using RFID technology to notify users if specific items aren’t in their bag.

NRF Events

Unparalleled education and game-changing ideas from retail’s visionary leaders.


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The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, representing all retail formats and channels of distribution. https://nrf.com

NRF Events

Unparalleled education and game-changing ideas from retail’s visionary leaders.

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