21 startups that could change the way retailers do business

Retailers are looking outside their own walls for the next big thing.

Competition is fierce and the stakes are high. To stay ahead, Iterate Studio co-founder Jon Nordmark says retailers must capitalize on existing strengths, stay open to new ideas and be nimble enough to act quickly.

Nordmark’s company is “a global ‘speed dating’ platform for enterprises and startups,” a sort of innovation marketplace where larger companies can partner with pioneers in emerging technologies like deep learning, robotics, 3D printing and drones.

Here’s a look at the startups that pitched retail executives at NRFtech’s inaugural “Tour of the Possible” in San Francisco.


  • Tapcentive — Mobile engagement platform creating new customer experiences in physical locations
  • Fiverun Commerce Cloud — Next-generation inventory and point-of-sale data that syncs with existing legacy infrastructure
  • Balam — A platform that tracks and analyzes real-time user behavior and movements in a physical environment


  • Twyst — Smart shopping bags that make self-checkout as easy as walking through a store’s exit doors
  • Electric Imp — “Amazon Web Services for IoT” that make it simple to connect devices to the Internet
  • HiKu — Smart kitchen tool that uses voice recognition and bar code scanning to help consumers build digital shopping lists


  • IBM Watson — A cognitive computing system that recognizes natural language and now has an open API with 300+ partners developing thousands of new applications
  • Nara Logics — Real-time personalization that uses “neuroscience-based AI” to outperform segmentation, popularity-based algorithms and curated recommendations

Sur La Table used SecondFunnel to boost Mother’s Day gift sales and used the tool again for its holiday gift guides.


  • Yottaa — A platform for managing and securing web apps, improving mobile site speed and user experience
  • Fanplayr — Dynamic promotional offers generated by advanced segmentation and real-time insights
  • Brandlock.io — Anti-malware and anti-adware tools that improve site performance and protect online brands
  • Elevaate — “Digital shelf space” management that connects on-site activity to supply chain inventory
  • SecondFunnel — Content-focused landing pages that boost discovery and inspire gift-givers


  • Chute — Social commerce platform that helps retailers collect, curate and display user-generated content
  • Captivate.ai — Automated emails with personalized content and relevant messages at each stage of the shopping journey
  • Thrive Commerce — White-label option for centralized management of online deals and coupons
  • Brand VO2 — Analytics software that monitors social and e-commerce data to determine a predictive “brand health” score


  • ExaqtWorld — Connected anti-theft RFID tagging for apparel and accessories
  • Resilient Systems — Incident response system that connects people, process and technology

Lowe’s Innovation Labs put Fellow Robots’ “OSHbot” to work in a San Jose (Calif.) Orchard Supply Hardware store in 2014. This video shows the retail robot in action.


  • Canvas — Build internal mobile apps and forms, even if users don’t know how to program or code
  • Fellow Robots — Sales assistant robots that help shoppers find items and offers in stores

Genevieve Bell has identified 10 components of the human condition; tapping into these ideas can help digital companies make a lasting impact.

Opportunities for innovation

When Intel needed help exploring the human side of the technologies it was pioneering, the company turned to Australian anthropologist Genevieve Bell.

Now a vice president and research fellow at Intel, Bell has identified 10 components of the human condition that can help digital companies make a lasting impact on consumers and culture. Building for the “stable” list ensures moderate success, but building for the “in flux” list opens up opportunities for enormous innovation.

Get all the details in STORES Magazine’s recap: “Being Human in a Digital World.”