As featured in San Francisco Business Times on Oct 12, 2017 by Alejandra Reyes-Velarde, Editorial Intern, San Francisco Business Times
Retailers are taking a hit from Amazon, which for years has improved the customer experience in ways that physical stores
can’t. But still, 90 percent of retail sales are made in stores, not online.
Omnyway, a software company that powers retailers’ mobile apps, is trying to make retailers competitive again by equipping them with ecommerce features that complement the physical shopping experience, said CEO Ashok Narasimhan.
Stock prices for big retailers are crashing while clothing stores are facing losses, said Amitaabh Malhotra, the chief marketing officer for Omnyway. And Amazon continues to grow.
“If you think about why that’s happening, it’s because the shopping experience at Amazon is so much better,” he said.
When you walk into a retail store, he said, it can be frustrating when you can’t find what you’re looking for in the correct size or color. Amazon doesn’t have that problem.
But Narasimhan believes that retail has the ability to guide you through your shopping journey in the same way Amazon does. For instance, Omnyway can suggest items for shoppers based on their preferences, offers bundles of similar items for a cheaper price and allows customers to checkout without waiting in line. If a customer can’t find a particular size, they can scan the item’s barcode and have the item shipped to them, Narasimhan said.
Kohls CEO Kevin Mansell said in a Shoptalk conference that mobile apps have improved the shopping experience for customers. Mansell said that by using the Kohl’s app digital wallet feature, powered by Omnyway, customers can take advantage of all the deals the store offers, such as cash rewards, its loyalty program and credit cards, without confusion.
Narasimhan, who has founded several other startups, said that when building a business on a new concept, it’s always a challenge to help people understand the idea.
“Doing a cool thing and saying everyone will buy it because it’s cool, it doesn’t work,” he said. “You have to be solving a real problem.”
Still, it wasn’t difficult for customers to adapt to using their mobile phone while shopping, Narasimhan said. It was something that concerned Kohl’s as well, he said, but after seeing how customers use the app across more than 1,200 stores, Omnyway found that people are comfortable with the change.
“Everyone carries their mobile all the time, so today is not an issue at all,” he said. “It’s been a pretty easy transition.”
What it does: Software that equips retail stores with e-commerce features
HQ: San Francisco
Founders: Ashok Narasimhan, Mohammad Khan, Bill Melton
Funding: $14 million
Clients: Kohl’s, IBM, Wipro