RetailNext Acquires Eric Schmidt-Backed Wi-Fi Analytics Company, Nearbuy Systems

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In-store analytics provider RetailNext is plugging a hole in its product suite with the acquisition of Nearbuy Systems, a three-and-a-half year old, in-store mobile analytics firm backed by $2.5 million from Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, Metamorphic Ventures, and others. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is an all-stock, 100% equity deal which values Nearbuy in the “high teens millions” internally at RetailNext. RetailNext CEO Alexei Agratchev characterized the acquisition as not being an exit for Nearbuy stakeholders, but a way for the two firms to “build a really big business together.”

Founded six years ago, RetailNext was one of the first companies thinking about how to introduce e-commerce analytics for physical retail stores. Today, the company focuses on crunching retailers’ so-called “big data” from a variety of sources, including from video surveillance, passive Wi-Fi tracking, point-of-sale systems, workforce management tools, credit card transactions, and more. It even grabs weather data. Combined, the analytics that RetailNext provides helps its retailer clients better understand everything that happens in their store and among their customer base.

RetailNext Today: 500M+ Shoppers Monitored By 65,000 Sensors

The company’s footprint is large. It tracks over 500 million shoppers per year, collecting data from over 65,000 in-store sensors, across thousands of stores in 33 countries worldwide. Over 100 retailers are in production mode (no longer piloting the system), says Agratchev, and over 400 stores are installed each month. Some of its current customers include Bloomingdales, American Apparel, Brookstone, Mont Blanc, Caché, Ulta, and Family Dollar, to name a few.

heat_mapRetailNext has been generating revenue since 2009, and now sees annual revenue well into eight figures, and 100% year-over-year growth.

These days, the “e-commerce for brick-and-mortars” space has become more crowded with newer startups, like Euclid, for example, founded by the team behind Urchin (which became Google Analytics). That company once drew fire for its privacy policies from tech commentators and congressmen who don’t seem to understand the extent that retail customers are already monitored today, for everything related to running a retail store, including loss prevention, bonus systems, store layout and design, sales and promotions, window and signage conversions, and more.

What RetailNext Lacked: Opt-In Data

However, of all the ways RetailNext could peer into shopper behavior, one thing it did not yet collect was data that consumers opted-in to share, which is what Nearbuy brings to the table.

The company, founded by a team from Aruba Networks, allows retailers to offer free Wi-Fi to shoppers which is tied into their existing wireless LAN infrastructure, whether that’s from Aruba, Cisco, Motorola, or another major wireless player. In return, consumers agree to a terms of service which allows the retailer to track where they go online while in-store. This lets the retailer better understand their customer base, including what products they’re researching on their smartphones (“showrooming”), what offers they might be interested in, as well as where they go physically within the store.

The company counts over 40 customers today, including U.K. baby superstore Kiddicare, several mall retailers, major luxury goods big box retailers, grocery stores, and electronics retailers. (The majority of its customers are under NDA.)

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Nearbuy and RetailNext were originally working on a partnership agreement, started a year ago, which would have allowed RetailNext to leverage Nearbuy’s existing infrastructure.

“Nearbuy has the largest amount of opt-in users and opt-in deployments out of anyone out there on the market,” says Agratchev of his interest in the company. “They’re adding about a hundred thousand new opt-in users every day, and they have a few million people who have opted-in to their platform. That was one of the bigger drivers for the deals,” he adds.

Today, retailers are using data they collect to improve store operations and marketing, but they’re now looking to get into personalization, Agratchev explains. They want to identify their best customers, tailor offers specifically to them, and serve them in different ways. This is especially true among high-end retailers, he notes, and Nearbuy has several customers in the “high-end, luxury brand” space.

Nearbuy Tech Already Available, Being Piloted

Because the two companies had already worked together on a partnership, RetailNext’s latest release (ver 4.5) already has the initial Nearbuy integration, thanks to the earlier OEM agreement the two had signed. There are also a couple of pilot customers on board now, too. Going forward, this additional functionality is available to any of RetailNext’s current client base, while Nearbuy’s customers will continue to be served uninterrupted, and its API will also still be available to third-parties looking to integrate the in-store behavioral data into their own applications.

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The entire 13-person Nearbuy team is joining RetailNext’s team of over 100, with the four co-founders taking up positions in their respective areas of focus, including former Nearbuy CEO Bryan Wargo, now VP of Sales.