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This Singaporean startup is bringing offline retailers into the future of commerce

As much as people love shopping online, it hasn’t yet spelled the end of physical stores. But it does mean shops have to rethink their value in a world where Amazon Prime gets you a toothbrush in a couple of hours. In China, for example, the online and offline gap in retail is bridged by a number of projectsfrom unmanned stores to WeChat-powered payment and loyalty programs.

And there’s Amazon Go, the US juggernaut’s recently opened concept of a physical store that does away with human staff and checkout points. Singapore’s version of the no-staff, no-cash retailer is a convenience store by local chain Cheers that debuted last year. The startup that helped put it together, Trakomatic, has been part of the changing face of retail since 2013.

The Singapore-based company arms physical retailers with digital capabilities, helping them gather and analyze troves of data to boost their business. With fewer than 30 people on the team, it’s working with retailers in more than 11 countries in Asia Pacific, Europe, and Latin America.

The startup gives businesses access to insights that previously only ecommerce stores had. “It’s really an integration of the entire back-end system,” Allen Lin, co-founder and CEO of Trakomatic, tells Tech in Asia.

Measuring offline

Trakomatic’s products use sensors and cameras to track whether a consumer walks by the store or into it, their movements inside the store, the shelves or stalls they go to, and the time they spend in front of a particular product.

The system can also track customers’ age, gender, ethnicity, and facial characteristics – which, for example, helps distinguish between new and returning customers. It then organizes everything into data visualization, heat maps, and other insights for its clients.

The company allays privacy concerns by saying it captures and processes footage on-device, and only sends metrics to its servers.

With fewer than 30 people on the team, Trakomatic is working with retailers in more than 11 countries.

When it first started, Trakomatic had a vision of selling its own equipment, “Apple-style, providing the hardware and everything, nicely packaged,” Lin says.

Pretty soon, however, they realized this wasn’t going to work for a startup. Trakomatic doesn’t specialize in hardware and the manufacturing process, and supporting the products well would take a lot more resources than they could bring to bear.

So the company decided to work on its software, making it compatible with as many devices in the market as possible. Now the startup works with partners to provide the hardware and installation services.

Trakomatic serves three kinds of clients: government agencies that deal with the public, large shopping malls, and individual store chains. Its clients in Singapore include the National Library and the country’s Housing and Development Board, as well as chain stores like Spring Maternity and Yue Hwa.

It has also worked with 7-11 stores in Thailand to help them track and understand how customers interact with products on the shelves.

The company was vetted by Accreditation@SGD, a business evaluation service provided by Singapore’s Infocomm and Media Development Authority. The process has helped Trakomatic in pursuing projects with government agencies and other clients, Lin explains.

The benefits to retailers are increased engagement and sales. For example, Spring Maternity, which specializes in maternity and baby products, said that customer conversion had increased by more than 5 percent since it started using Trakomatic’s services. Being able to accurately measure traffic throughout the week also helped the chain allocate staff across its stores more efficiently.

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Mr Hubertus von Drabich
Newlands, Harare, Zimbabwe

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