An online retailer platform called simply "42" is debuting today at TechCrunch Disrupt NY with new ideas about how to bring the intelligence of online e-commerce tools to brick-and-mortar merchants. The B2B platform provides businesses and brands a way to better connect and personalize their interactions with customers, as well as to gain broader insight into consumer buying patterns, customer loyalty, and more. The company was founded just this February by a team which includes Cathy Han, formerly of Procter & Gamble, and Nick Porter, previously of mobile customer engagement solutions provider Benbria. There are two part-time co-founders involved as well: Lucas Lemanowicz of Palantir and Sarah Hum of Google. Han explains that the inspiration for building 42 - which, yes, is a nod to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - arose from her work at P&G, whose clients include several large retailers. "My job was to look at the data, and look at where the gaps in their businesses were. It was a huge realization that, as it turns out, a lot of these brick-and-mortar businesses don't have access to a suite of online tools," she explains. "They could use technology a lot better to help engage their customers and drive their sales." She felt there was not only an opportunity in developing a suite of online tools for this underserved market, but also because there were few who really understood the industry from both the technology and the retailers' side. 42 today is an online B2B platform which uses data from retailers' point-of-sale systems. That data is manually exported and uploaded into 42's systems, but the eventual goal is to automate that process. Once online, the business can view a snapshot of key trends among customers and sales in a visual and intuitive dashboard interface. The main screen shows things like total sales, margins, average sales per customer, growth drivers, popular items and best sellers, among other things. Another part of the 42 interface offers more granular data about the store's top customers, including demographic and contact information, past purchases, and more. On the consumer side, the system relies on collecting a shopper's email information at checkout - which could be a challenge given that, historically, this information has only been used to add consumers to mass mailing lists which offered little value. So it will be up to the retailers themselves to explain to customers the benefits in now providing this data - that emails will no longer feel spammy and irrelevant, but are instead personalized and customized based on their own individual buying trends and interests. For example, if the customer only shops for jeans or shoes at the store, then they might be alerted only when there's a sale on those items specifically, or when new styles are available. "The idea is to identify purchase patterns just the same way we identify them online, except using point-of-sale data," says Han. 42 stops short of actually helping retailers craft those personalized messages, however, but it does work with their preferred mailing systems, she notes. There are a number of companies attempting to introduce analytics for offline businesses which are similar to those e-commerce retailers use, for example Euclid and Nomi track anonymized customer behavior and in-store trends using mobile location data. 42 is different because it's about establishing a personal connection with individual customers - even allowing the merchant to identify their most loyal shoppers and top spenders in order to target them with exclusive deals. 42 got a head start on its industry outreach efforts when it was selected to present at New York's Fashion Week in mid-February. The company is now in talks with five well-known fashion brands, some of whom are piloting the system now. The plan is to have a beta version available later this summer, with a public launch later this fall. Interested retailers or brands can reach out to 42 for inclusion in the beta by signing up for more information here. Judges Q&A: Judges in this session included Judges: Nikolaos Bonatsos (General Catalyst), Tracy Chou (Pinterest), Matt Mazzeo (Lowercase Capital), Ron Palmeri (Mk II Ventures). Responses are paraphrased. Q: Do you tie profiles from brick-and-mortar to online stores? A: Absolutely, that's the goal. We send a copy of the receipt with the items customers buy to the retailers, and those items could be online items. Q: POS integrations possible? A: Yes, it's tough. We're being selective. The ones we're working on now are some of the larger brands. We can integrate with their email system at point of checkout, or they can pre-load data onto our servers. Q: Who's your customer? A: We're working with a couple of CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) brands right now. Q: Do you pull all the data into your own systems, and how customized are the analytics? A: It depends on preference of retailer. We can access read-only versions. If they want to customize the data a little bit, they can. Q: What format is the data coming in? A: Whatever is easiest for them. What we've seen now is CSV. Q: Results you've seen so far? A: We're in piloting stages right now.
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