Love shopping. Love tech. Love retail tech.

Love shopping. Love tech. Love retail tech.

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

We have always worked with tech-driven companies, building their profiles and shaping reputations. It’s a sector that never gets tired; tech advances never cease to amaze and enthrall me. Frankly, it’s the ground-breaking audacity, being at the beginning of a new movement, changing the way the human race interconnects with something, or each other, for the better. It can be mind-boggling, but the quest for tech that will bring better, faster, and more accurate ways to live our lives to the full is a powerful addiction.

Our challenge from a communications point of view is often just explaining it simply, but it’s a ‘sweet spot’ for Firefly and has been for some time.

This article is the first in a series to shine a spotlight on some of the amazing tech companies which will be helping us get through whatever the next decade brings. All these companies are inspiring in their relentless pursuit of new ways, better ways, faster ways and all have a comms challenge to get their propositions across simply – and in this one, we’ll be focusing on retail technology.

Not so long ago I loved a little wander up the high street, soaking up the latest trends. Now shopping has become hygienic in all the senses. It’s mostly online these days, and if you’re in-store then there’s no trying on allowed. There’s little interaction with shop staff and with limited shoppers allowed in, there’s probably a queue outside and it’s getting colder! You need a laser focus to get what you want, get home and be safe.   

In our COVID-threatened world, the shops shut and re-opened again, shopper numbers declined and changed their habits, most likely permanently. Retail has pressed its ‘transform me now’ button and technology is the answer to many of these problems.

Furthermore, the retail sector is about to enter its biggest month, both commercially and reputationally. Consumers may be careful with their cash over Christmas, but they’ll still be spending. This means that retail brands, and retail tech brands must make sure they’ve got the right infrastructure in place now to cope with the surge – or they could face reputational and financial knocks!

Smart tech investors are putting their cash into retail tech to help boost efficiency, providing much-needed support so that it will thrive again – admittedly, in a different way that suits our lives post-COVID. There are hundreds of promising fledgling businesses, but we’ve picked twelve of our favourites in this post. With funding, they’ll invest in R&D, get their propositions straight and start to shape their reputations and grow.

The ‘Clean Dozen’

Get paid for going shopping! Download the Observa app, founded in the US, which asks secret shoppers to submit store shelf appearance data which then uses AI processes to offer suggested actions or improvements to increase sales.

Empty shelves are called stock-outs, which is a lose-lose for retailers and shoppers. Shelfie cameras, founded in Australia, take regular images and automate the menial stock monitoring tasks, freeing up sales assistants to focus on serving customers.

Free hand sanitiser, although welcome, is not enough. NanoSeptic is a US-developed, adhesive self-cleaning surface for door handles and buttons etc. A sure-fire winner in tackling virus spread and helping customers and staff feel safe from infection.

Love trying on jewellery? Tryon, founded in Ukraine, is an AI retail tech start-up creating a virtual try-on experience. In real-time, try on as many engagement rings as you wish, see it in 3D, and be sure to buy the right size and the right piece that matches your hand, finger shape or skin tone.

Who wants to pay punishing bank forex rates? Check out, based in London, which facilitates cross-border payments. The team just raised an additional $150m Series B funding round to accelerate product roll-out and get the technology out asap!

Want to avoid public transport but can’t afford a new car? Online car sales are booming. Cazoo, based in London, sells refurbished cars online, and delivers them to your home.

With a pandemic stampede for omni-channel shopping, Alkemics, based in Paris, has had a leap in sales. It connects suppliers to retailers to omni-channel shoppers in one single and secure platform.

EDITED, a London-founded retail decision platform with an AI data engine, gives brands every number and every stat they need to know before making a decision – a vital addition if retailers are to avoid a misstep in an already precarious time.

BluePrint, founded in 2019, is a London- based conversational commerce platform allowing customers to purchase via a single SMS or WhatsApp message – how simple can it get?  

If you’ve got bulging wardrobes, maybe Vestiaire Collective, based in the capital of fashion Paris, can help relieve you and make some space. Alternatively, treat yourself to a vintage designer delight for a fraction of the price of ‘new’.

We’re also big fans of momox, a marketplace for buying and selling secondhand books, DVDs and music – a great place for stuff when you’re having a clear-out (or to pick up a few bargains!).

Finally, Scandit, based in Zurich, makes barcode scanning software to speed up store purchases. Use an app, scan and go - what could be simpler? No more queueing, ever – sounds like the dream!

There are literally hundreds – if not thousands – of new retail-tech start-ups making life easier for retailers, brands and shoppers alike, but these are just some that have caught our eyes recently. We’ll be following them closely over the coming months, seeing how they shape their reputations, as well as the lives of others. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a box of old CDs to scan and send off to momox!

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