Online shopping often feels like a one-way street from the point of view of the physical retail world: e-commerce has a wider selection, it’s open all the time and there seems to be an endless funnel of data that online retailers can use to make their offers better and more personalized to each browsing consumer. But as rampant inflation wreaks havoc on any kind of price stability for consumers, it’s not quite game over, either.
Datasembly — a startup based in the Virginia suburbs of DC that provides retailers and CPG companies with big data-based analytics on product pricing and product promotions as well as insights into assortment — has raised $16 million in funding.
The round is a Series B and is being led by Noro-Moseley Partners — an Atlanta VC that focuses on backing tech startups out of the Southeast of the U.S. — with participation from Grotech Ventures, Topmark Partners and Staley Capital. The valuation is not being disclosed, but it comes with other interesting socioeconomic context.
This Series B comes almost three years after Datasembly raised a $10.3 million Series A led by Craft Ventures, a round closed in the throes of COVID-19, when many wondered just how and if physical stores would make it out of the pandemic alive.
Physical stores, as it turned out, didn’t die off, and many of those that have remained standing have definitely become more digitally savvy to improve how they can compete in the wider retail landscape.
That is where Datasembly comes into the picture. Fittingly, or ironically, for a company that aims to help those selling goods in brick-and-mortar settings compete better with the online world, its power comes from the fact that so much information is available online today: Its big data analytics engine ingests more than 12 billion prices across some 150,000 online and offline storefronts on a weekly basis, working out to some 1.2 trillion “total observations in collection.”
“The critical information we use is on the web,” CEO and co-founder Ben Reich said in an interview. “We collect at a massive scale from the public web, focusing on price, promotion and assortment.”
He noted that retailers and brands have always focused on gathering this kind of information, but in the past it might have been teams of individuals tracking other physical stores, eventually adding a small selection of online stores into the mix.
That has changed not just because so much more shopping is now done online, he said.
“The inflationary period we’re in, combined with the economic effects of the pandemic and continuing supply chain issues have all caused unprecedented volatility,” he said. “The level of precision of bringing a product to market has exploded as a result.” There used to be national price zones, he said. “But these have shrunk and shrunk. Individual stores can have their own price zones now.”
And on a product level, he added, everything now changes “with more speed and granularity than ever before. So brands and stores need to be more responsive. They are hungry for more information and transparency.”
While some of the world’s very biggest retailers online, like Amazon, may well have all the data and data science muscle they need to carry out this kind of work in-house, the thinking goes that many of Datasembly’s would-be customers might not. (Reich would not comment on whether Amazon was a customer of the startup.)
And today, Datasembly already has a sizable business. It works with hundreds of partners (in its phrasing), including some 230 retailers like Target, Walgreens and Starbucks, and brands and organizations like General Mills, Nestlé’s Purina and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Retailers may be the most obvious category, but the others are just as hungry for this kind of data. The FDA tracks and publishes price indices and research, among other work where pricing is critical information; and as for brands, they have long had to grapple with a major disconnect when it comes to direct relationships with their consumers. The rise of social media has definitely changed the marketing game for them, and companies like Datasembly open the door to understanding what customers like and don’t like (and don’t buy, or do buy) even more.
And that also points to how Datasembly will be using this funding. The plan is to continue investing in more measurements that are demanded by its customers and to expand that customer base overall. For now, Datasembly is focused mainly on consumer packaged goods and groceries, but there is an obvious opportunity to extend this in all kinds of ways. It could expand to kinds of retail products like apparel, products purchased wholesale (not by consumers, that is) and beyond goods to pricing for consumer services.
Interestingly, Datasembly is in the business of business intelligence but not business itself: That is to say, it doesn’t currently make recommendations on how to price something or how to bundle a promotion; nor does it have any kind of inventory management as part of its platform. Reich said that was because retailers and brands still have their own individual strategies that they might follow: they may have different goals on margins; or they might want to, say, intentionally be more competitive (cheaper) on specific items to lure shoppers to build bigger overall baskets.
Whatever the aim, those businesses know they need data to understand better what to do next.
“CPGs and retailers need comprehensive, cost-effective, real-time pricing and product availability data,” said John Ale, a general partner at Noro-Moseley Partners, in a statement. “Datasembly provides the best-in-class solution, collecting and normalizing billions of data points weekly. As its customers continue to fight inflation and weather supply chain issues, Datasembly is instrumental in empowering effective pricing, promotion and assortment decisions.”