Omnistream, a Web-based customer relationship management software developed to help luxury brands boost retail sales in China, is exiting private beta today after finishing the Alchemist Accelerator program for enterprise startups. Headquartered in Hong Kong, Omnistream’s software helps sales associates in upscale stores market to Chinese customers, who demand more personalized service.
According to McKinsey, China is expected to account for more than 20% of global luxury sales by 2015. But that doesn’t mean affluent customers are willing to drop thousands of dollars on a whim. In order to convince shoppers that their products are worth the higher price, upscale brands have to woo them first, showering potential customers and VIPs with special perks and attention that might seem over-the-top to Western consumers.
“It’s not just confined to luxury retail, it’s an overall Chinese business paradigm,” says Chen. “Personalized relationships are important in everything. Customers want to hear ‘I’m recommending this watch to you because it looks good on you and I have the exact color you are looking for and your size.’”
Many brands already use CRM platforms like Sage, but few have services that are localized for luxury retail sales staff in Hong Kong or mainland China. Chen says sales associates often skip their company’s CRM. Instead, they prefer to write down detailed notes about shoppers and use their mobile phones to send potential buyers emails, SMS texts or WeChat messages about promotions, special events and products. Omnistream enables sales associates to do all those things through a single Web-based platform.
“The biggest difference between our product and other software is our focus on frontline sales. Especially if you are not a well-known luxury brand, the main connection consumers have is with your frontline staff. Invitations to sales, product launches, all come from frontline staff,” says Chen. “Right now there isn’t a systematic way to do that.”
Without a platform to centralize marketing efforts by different sales associates, a lot of valuable data and insight is lost. Omnistream is currently integrated with WeChat and Chen says the startup plans to add other messaging apps that are popular in Asia. Omnistream’s platform lets sales associates tailor messages for specific customers or groups. The software’s analytics then enables retail managers to see which marketing campaigns are getting the most results.
One of Omnistream’s beta clients is a luxury watch maker that found shoppers will make three to five visits to its stores to view timepieces before finally making a purchase. In order to convince customers to buy a watch, sales staff have to stay in touch with them between visits without being annoying. According to the startup, before the watch company started using Omnistream, only 7% of first-time customers returned to make a purchase within three months, but its software helped increase that percentage to a figure in the low twenties.
Chen says Omnistream wanted to participate in an accelerator program in the U.S. instead of Asia so it could get access to founders with experience scaling up enterprise software companies. Omnistream’s mentors have included Adam Pisoni, co-founder of Yammer, Timothy Chou, former CEO of Oracle On Demand and Meebo co-founder Elaine Wherry. Now that it is out of private beta and seeking new clients, Omnistream will market itself by getting in touch with regional retail managers instead of brand headquarters, since they are the people responsible for overseeing sales teams at individual stores. The startup is targeting companies with retail locations in Hong Kong, the largest luxury shopping destination for mainland Chinese tourists, and southern Chinese cities.