42, An Online Platform Bringing Big Data To Brick-And-Mortar Retailers, Makes Its Debut

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Y Combinator-backed online retailer platform and former TechCrunch Disrupt participant, 42, is today making its official debut. The company, founded only a year ago, is working to turn raw point-of-sale data into actionable insights for brick-and-mortar businesses that can help them boost their sales.

This includes details about a store’s best customers or which products are top sellers, among other things.

The data is something that retailers have access to, but may have a hard time making sense of on their own. Or they may have limited resources to do the kind of analysis that allows them to draw the insights 42’s software-based solution can provide. Retailers might try importing their own data into Excel, which can crash and cause headaches, for example. Meanwhile, their other options for this kind of analysis have traditionally been more expensive, custom software integrations.

With 42, retailers just export their raw data in any format, and upload it to 42’s service to get started.

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The idea for the company – whose name references the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in case you were wondering – comes from co-founder Cathy Han, formerly of Procter & Gamble. As she explained to us at Disrupt NY 2013, her job previously had her working with larger retailers to help them better analyze their data. She realized that a lot of brick-and-mortar businesses lacked a suite of online tools to do this kind of thing for themselves, and could take advantage of technology to increase their understanding of their customers and their sales.

In the time since the service’s beta debut at Disrupt, the company has been working on the backend of the platform and listening to feedback from its early adopters, which have included the brand Rebecca Minkoff, plus a small handful of other apparel retailers, sporting equipment sellers, and small-scale organic food stores.

“One of the things we’ve been focused on is our data infrastructure – to design it to handle retailers with a growing quantity of data, and to have an API that will allow it to handle any type of query,” explains Han.

She says that with the new API, 42 can tell retailers not just what’s selling, but what kind of items are really driving their growth. That is, if you look at top sales by the bottom line dollar amount alone, as retailers tend to do, you wouldn’t be getting the big picture. 42’s system, however, takes into account a variety of factors, including not just sales, but also the volume, the margins, the turnover, the rate that it’s moving and more.

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“A lot of retailers just don’t have the time to go into that much detail,” she adds, “or they’re just not aware that this is a way you can do it. But it’s a lot more efficient.”

To make this possible, 42 has to first import, clean and normalize sales and customer data from registers and point-of-sale systems, and says it now has its initial integration turnaround done in under 48 hours, compared to the industry standard of up to 12 weeks.

Plus, Han says their system is equipped to handle a wide variety of SKU types, and can integrate with some newer POS and online systems (those with APIs, for example) as well.

During 42’s beta period, the company heard from their early testers that what’s just as important as gaining these new insights is being able to digest them quickly. So today, 42 works with its customers to configure custom reporting for their businesses, and these can be automatically sent out via email to store managers in all locations on a regular basis.

Pricing for the service is not standard – it depends on the volume of data for the retailer in question, and its complexity, notes Han.

To date, 42 has been bootstrapping itself through “award money” like grants, while working on the product. The company is currently heads down in preparation for Y Combinator’s demo day, after which they hope to begin raising to help with hiring.