Bringing Retail Back from the Brink with Smart Stores

Author: Quinn Li, Vice President and Global Head of Qualcomm Ventures

There is little doubt that retail business is under tremendous pressure, and certain segments are experiencing excruciating pain as they struggle to survive. In the past 12 months there has been a deluge of bad news highlighting the plight of iconic retailers such as Macy’s, The Limited, Sears, Kmart and Men’s Wearhouse, all shuttering 100’s of stores and others such as Sport Chalet, Sports Authority and American Apparel filing for bankruptcy. So, is the death of “brick and mortar” retailers inevitable? Does Amazon and the ecommerce sector have this fight already wrapped up due to their incredible cost and distribution advantages? Before we answer that, it’s important to put things into perspective. According to the US Department of Commerce, the US retail sales figure for Q3–2016 was $1.2 trillion and yet only 8.4% of that came directly from ecommerce. Thus, although online sales are growing at a faster rate, the overall size of the physical retail sales market is enormous. There are both traditional retailers like the Home Depot, TJX and Trader Joes that are profitable and growing in this environment, as well as some prominent brands like Apple, Tesla and Amazon itself, who have established storefronts in order to interact with their customers. Thus, despite the doom and gloom predictions we are hearing about some unfortunate “brick and mortar” companies, the sector is not going away, instead it’s quickly evolving.

In order for retailers to be successful, they will have to fundamentally reinvent the way they conduct business and embrace technologies that will give them access to greater insights about their store’s operations and overall customer experiences. Today’s consumer has the upper hand as the smartphone in his/her back pocket is readily available to gather pricing information, provide product reviews and real time recommendations via social media. Retailers need a way to level the playing field by developing a “Smart Store” that will enable them to better understand who is entering their store, identify what areas of the store are most trafficked, and which items get picked-up, carried around and then bought and/or returned. RetailNext, a Qualcomm Ventures (the investment arm of Qualcomm Incorporated) portfolio company is a leader in the retail analytics space and is an enabler of “Smart Stores” in the physical retail space. The company’s technology delivers a suite of real-time, comprehensive analytics that empowers retailers so they can collect, analyze, and visualize a myriad of in-store data. Using HD video analytics, Wi-Fi detection, Bluetooth, and point-of-sale data, RetailNext’s platform instantly informs retailers about how shoppers are engaging within their stores. Thus far, the company has deployed its analytics platform in more than 300 retailers which has enabled them to measure the behavior of more than 800 million shoppers annually via a collection of 65,000 in-store sensors. It does all this via a proprietary IoT camera sensor called Aurora® which is built off of Qualcomm’s SnapdragonTM processor. With this new technology, retailers can now capture the analytics necessary to help them better understand consumer behavior and provide store owners and managers more meaningful information that will help them plan and execute new strategies that can positively impact the bottom line of today’s brick-and-mortar retailers. RetailNext is at the forefront of this new retail paradigm and is the ideal partner for physical retailers who are ready to take their business to the next level.

Visit the RetailNext Smart Store at NRF’s Big Show this upcoming January 15–17, 2017 in booth #3353 and learn how you can optimize the shopper experience through data-driven retail.

Quinn Li is Vice President & Global Head of Qualcomm Ventures. In this role, Quinn oversees Qualcomm’s $1 billion strategic venture investment portfolio of over 140 investments. Learn more about at