How San Francisco Company Index Is Transforming Offline Sales with Big Data

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Despite its newness, big data is already revolutionizing the retail space as we know it. Although many applications of big data revolve around online business and e-commerce, it can be used offline to achieve much of the same effect. Some companies, like Index, are even trying to bridge the competitive gap between local, brick-and-mortar stores and larger, more prominent e-tailers.

An Experienced Team Taking on Brand New Horizons

Led by former Google Wallet teammates Marc Freed-Finnegan and Jonathan Wall, Index provides integrated software that collects data from the point-of-sale terminals and devices of brick-and-mortar retailers. The software then mimics the functionality seen in cloud computing by collating and organizing customer-specific data.

Instead of relying solely on a customer’s credit card purchases to gauge their spending habits, this makes it possible for retailers to track customers based on web browsing history and social engagement. Brick-and-mortar retailers can use the system to provide an improved level of personalization that is on par with the biggest and most popular e-commerce giants.

The developers took the functionality of Index one step further by providing retailers with the ability to create customer-specific profiles and identities. Not only does this let retailers offer their own product recommendations and suggestions, but it also gives them the opportunity to provide discounts and coupons for products that their customers actually want.

Moving Full Steam Ahead

The team with Index raised $7 million in Series A funding to coincide with the company’s launch in 2013. After developing an initial customer base that included brands like American Apparel, Fairway and The Fresh Market, the team has already secured an additional $19 million in Series B funding. They’re hopeful the latest investments will be enough to take their venture to the next level with even more customers and partnerships throughout the offline retail space.

While they’re quick to point out that some of these brands do have online websites and storefronts of their own, the purpose of Index is to provide a separate customer profile for those who might never make an online purchase. Additional services provided by Index can be used to connect offline and online channels, set up secure payment services and provide even more relevancy with coupons and product recommendations.

Index has also teamed up with Facebook to begin targeted ad campaigns for offline retailers. The new system, which is still in its infancy, will give Facebook more insight into the effectiveness of their ads and provide retailers with access to real-time data regarding sales conversions.

If it all works out as planned, Facebook’s offline ads will make it easier for consumers to find and support local businesses. This feature will only work with Facebook users who have enabled the location services option on their smartphones, but some of the first users of the new ad algorithms are already reporting stellar results.

The majority of Index’s efforts thus far have focused on larger brick-and-mortar retailers. While this ultimately means longer sales cycles and an extended waiting period before profits begin rolling in, the team with Index is confident their efforts will be well worth the wait.

Blurring the Lines Between Online and Brick-and-Mortar Storefronts

The rise of big data has already blurred the lines between online retailers and brick-and-mortar storefronts. While many continue to pour their resources into e-commerce, those who would prefer to stick with tradition are finding it increasingly harder to do so. Utilities like Index do an excellent job of filling this gap while still giving offline retailers access to the data they need to compete in the 21st century.

Contributed by: Kayla Matthews, a technology writer and blogger covering big data topics for websites like Productivity Bytes, CloudTweaks, SandHill and VMblog.


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