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How This Silicon Valley Startup Helps Stores Get Smarter

Physical stores have been slow to catch up to the wave of digital innovation driving exceptional consumer experiences. One Silicon Valley startup thinks it has cracked the code for bringing data and technology into the brick-and-mortar environment.

Led by a trio of seasoned retail and tech executives, Virtual Visions leverages its co-founders and chairman’s decades of experience building tech companies and partnering with European merchants. Founder Almaz Nanjappa built and sold Momentus, an innovation studio, to Softvision, while co-founder Alex Grange’s expertise in digital signage aided more than 1,000 retailers across the pond.

“In conversations with some one of the most forward-looking retailers today, we’ve discovered the need for physical stores to perform as intelligently as the world’s leading e-commerce platforms,” Nanjappa noted. “Many companies talk speculatively about the store of the future. At Virtual Visions, we are creating that store for our customers today.”

Counting Lululemon and Saks Fifth Avenue among its clients, Virtual Visions believes its combination of smart, interactive digital displays combined with backend inventory data can help stores upgrade from “cost centers to profit makers,” the company said in a statement. When in-store shoppers interact with the digital displays and click on products that catch their eye, retailers gain valuable data on how their merchandise is performing and can use these insights to devote more of their physical footprint to high-turn items rather than products that sell slowly. The platform incorporates RFID tags to track merchandise and manage stock levels.

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The company’s Smartstore platform, which it says integrates with any inventory or CRM system, hews to a trend bubbling up in retail: self-service kiosks. Customers using the smart displays can view products added to wish lists via social media, look up merchandise information, compare prices and research what’s available in stores nearby or online, driving useful cross-channel insights.

Virtual Visions formally unveiled its 10,000-square-foot Silicon Valley Retail Innovation Lab in Hayward, Calif., where it develops and pilots new store-based technologies to serve the luxury and hospitality sectors, in addition to retail.

“A smartstore needs to provide customers with smart and elegant ways to discover what is right for them and make their choices easily available whether the items are inside the store, at another location nearby, or shippable to their homes,” CEO Mo Malek noted. “But physical retailers have another opportunity: to more deeply engage the consumer in a way that is not achievable offline. The Virtual Visions platform empowers retailers to customize and right-size the physical experience.”