Month: April 2014

Technology Working to Connect Medical Devices

Technology can create as many problems as it solves. This is especially true with sensor technology and all of the new smart devices in the internet of things, or internet of everything as some are now referring to it. The early adopters of these technologies are finding some value in using the products, most of which come with their own app to control the device. Those with more than one smart device wind up with a cluttered set of applications, much like a coffee table filled with remotes to operate your version of a home theater. These applications have no direct connection to one another, even if a user would benefit from such a connection. There is a need to connect all connected devices.

I first came across Infometers at the Plug and Play Wearables event in March 2014 and was impressed by the problem they are trying to solve. Have a look at their display at the event:

InfoMeters_Photo

Look at all of those devices! Most of them are glucose monitors but Infometers is also working with blood pressure monitors and other sensing medical devices. To connect all of these is no easy feat but it is exactly what Infometers is doing and more as you can see by the sample screens of their software. Infometers provides physicians and researchers the ability to launch remote patient monitoring services (RPMs) in a world where there is an ever increasing number of medical devices. As insurers cover different devices, physicians must adopt to using the various medical sensor devices selected by their patients.

“We see hundreds and hundreds of sensor devices coming out in the next few months” Infometers CEO Akhsar Kharebov told me when we caught up for a chat at Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, CA where Infometers is located. While an individual patient may use one, possibly two devices, their care providers now find themselves interacting with all of these different devices in order to provide personalized care and increase patient satisfaction. They need one place that collects and analyzes the data that is literally spewing from hundreds of devices.  They need to connect all of these connected devices.

Infometers is working on a major pilot with a university in San Francisco and has several other deals in the works. Kharebov sees Infometers as well positioned in the space. “Infometers provides very scalable software to connect all patient devices,” he said. Scale is important when dealing with thousands of patients and their device data. Whether you are a patient, doctor or researcher, remote patient monitoring with Infometers is technology working for you.

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Technology Offering Brands Effortless Mobile Shopping

Brands provide luxurious retail experiences, experiences unique to the brand, experience that are the brand. While brands have managed to own the in store experience, the brand experience is not replicated online. Each website only gives you more of the same inconvenient browsing and shopping carts. The virtual browsing and carts do not mirror the in-store brand experience.

Granted, some online brand experiences are better than others. Burberry successfully created one of the best online brand experiences out there today. They have great pictures and a sleek website. Their models actually are wearing the clothing as opposed to it being photo-shopped on. The Burberry site learns what you are interested in and after a short data collection period it is obvious their system harnesses the power of analytics turning data into insight in the form of relevant product suggestions. Moreover, the Burberry ADD TO BAG button uses the word bag and not the word cart, making it obvious the brand manager focuses on the experience.

Burberry's Add to Bag

BUT it is still the same click to add to a virtual shopping cart mentality. You do not get the same experience as in the store, where hands are involved as a product is touched, examined and then purchased. It does not matter the type of store; online shopping is not the same as in-store shopping.

Grability co-founder and CEO Sebastian Mejia and his team took this issue to heart when creating their solution. He explained that the Grability product is “an online customer experience so simple that no one is excluded from using it. It takes the real life shopping experience and brings it to your mobile device. Grability, based in New York, is the new paradigm of how shopping should be: immediate, gratifying, fun, universal and simple.”

Grability is working with large retailers all over the world, including Europe’s largest department store El Corte Ingles.  Have a peek at Grability’s solution for grocery retail:

Grability Video

(Click to play video demo)

No online shopper will want anything but the ease and simplicity of shopping with their fingertips ever again. The Grability retail experience pales all existing solutions by magnitudes and is the perfect example of technology working for you to make life simpler. Retailers who fail to provide experiences like Grability’s patented technology will be left behind.

Marketers who see this solution know it is the perfect setup for A/B testing. But something is more important: Virtual shelf space will become more valuable than the most expensive physical shelf space in any retail store. The world of brand management in every retail space just changed.

It changed most for online retailers offering products from multiple brands because online shoppers can now shop in virtual aisles much the way they browse physical store aisles. “Forget about banners,” Mejia said. “This is the most valuable form of mobile advertisement; non obtrusive, targeted and closest to the purchase intent.”

With high quality data, Grability enables further segmentation and new niches can be found. The real power of the Grability solution is that brands can now pay for placement within the online shopping environment exactly the same way they pay for placement in store. With insight from Grability into every individual placement, the value of those placements just went way up.

For decades retailers have only been able to analyze a basket of goods after that basket is filled. Now they have the ability to see exactly how people shop. With the insight gained, they can provide a virtual store designed for the individual that is so personal there is no reason to shop in any other way or in any other place. In the coming decade customers will be disinterested when they are not presented with what they want and completely turned off when the experience is not easy, simple and beautiful.

“Grability is not stopping with food,” Mejia told me. “Grability will spread to every product, especially the products of luxury retailers who wish to optimize the best mobile experience and enable brands to leverage their brand equity in the online world.” His team is able to produce some very convincing sample solutions with high end brands such as Clinique, Dior, Jimmy Choo, and Valentino as well as samples for retailers like Walgreens and Rite Aid.  In every case, the gentle swipe of a finger guides the product to your cart, bag or scale.

Dior

Absolut

RiteAid Cold & Flu

RIteAid Cereal

Whole Foods Produce

These interfaces represent effortless mobile shopping that mirrors the real experience in such an innovative way it is actually a better experience than shopping in the store. Shopping is no longer about the retailer getting a consumer into their experience; retailers must now bring their experience to the consumer wherever they are in the world with whatever device they are using. In online markets, brand promiscuity is only a click away. When your branded experience is in the pockets of everyone in the world and it feels as natural as the Grability solution, the chances of brand abandonment go down.

Grability’s superb report card includes reducing cart abandonment by 70% over other solutions offered by the same retailer. They rightfully earned a place among the winners of the Intel Challenge and were selected as one of the top 25 finalists to compete in the global challenge in Silicon Valley last fall.

Grability boasts a 600% increase in mobile sales and 300% increase in total online sales over a four month period for Colombian retailer La Rebaja. Is some of this cannibalization? Probably but a big chunk of it is coming from competitors and it is better to cannibalize on your in store shopping, where margins are thinner, inventory costs are higher and operations eat at your profitability, than to see yourself eliminated by innovative competition. Does anyone remember a book store called Borders

I mentioned Grability to a friend on Facebook:

GrabilityFBChat

Instacart beware: this is one of your customers and Grability has you beat with just a video clip! I’ve looked at Instacart as well as Netgrocer, Peapod, Safeway Online Grocery Delivery, Walmart To Go, Meijer and Costco among other online shopping solutions. Every one of them could benefit from working with Grability.  “Our goal is to continue making customers happy by providing the best shopping experience and make Grability the standard way of buying products in mobile” said Mejia

It comes as no surprise that Grability has been profitable since delivering their first product. They’ve also built their product with no outside investment, no seed, no A round (at least not yet and Mejia declined to comment). Investors and brand managers can only imagine what some well managed capital will do inside this company that puts technology to work for you.

Improving the Online Fashion Retail Experience

Technology is changing the retail world improving the online fashion retail experience. This is due in large part to personalization, the main topic of tomorrow’s @VLABretail event at Stanford GSB. Here is a sneak peek at the companies that will showcase their technology-enabled products and services prior to tomorrow’s @VLAB event. For a peak at what the event is all about, have a read here or visit the VLAB event site.

Shoefitr.com

Think it’s a pain to order shoes online? Shoefitr is out to reduce the pain by offering 3-D modeling of shoes. This gives customers the option to see in detail exactly how a shoe is expected to fit based on other shoes in their wardrobe. Instead of ordering three pairs of the same shoe in different sizes with the intention of returning two, you can confidently order one pair and skip the returns.

Dapperapp.com

Men typically hate shopping. All of us, regardless of gender, are doing more browsing on phones. The problem, though, is that shopping on retailer’s sites is not easy on a mobile device and spending is not occurring from the mobile phone as much as it could. Dapperapp.com is designed to make the shopping experience for men easy from their mobile phones. Swipe left to dislike, right to like and down to purchase. From viewing products to checkout, Dapper provides simple shopping for the savvy man.

Vastrm.com

Ever have trouble finding the perfect polo shirt? Vastrm is an online retailer providing tailored made to measure polo shirts for men. Vastrm is less about whether you are a medium or large and more about what fit within medium or large is best for you. Taking a page out of the Warby Parker book, you can have three polo shirts shipped for free to help you discover your fit.

PersonalShopping.com

For women looking for easy online shopping that is also personal, check out PersonalShopping.com during the event. Their message: “The best in women’s fashion, picked by our style experts just for you.” A simple 3 minute quiz starts you on your way to shopping through items that are right for your style and fit so that you can purchase items from your favorite retailers.

3/7/2016 updated link to VLAB event website.  You can view a recording of the event too.  Also corrected the links to ShoeFitr.com and Vastrm.com.  The sites for Dapperapp.com and PersonalShopping.com are no longer functioning.  Former DapperApp.com CEO Amir Malayery is now at Industry Ventures, a Silicon Valley VC.  I’ve yet to confirm what is happening with PersonalShopping.com.

Technology Working for the Social Media Marketer

Technology is creating completely new opportunities. Take social media, for example. Just a few years back, it would have been extremely difficult to carry on an intelligent conversation regarding social media marketing in a business context. Now, however, even the not-so-internet-inclined business leaders understand the driving need for social media marketing, even if they do not understand how to do it or where to turn for guidance.

Social media marketers need to understand whether or not their efforts are generating the desired results. Managing social media is a challenge, using it to market, for those who studied marketing based on research that has collected dust for years, is nearly impossible without insight into what is really going on. The internet, in case you haven’t noticed, is so vast that it is difficult to understand what happens in the various social media channels and new channels are opening up all the time.

Enter the technology enabled entrepreneur. I had the opportunity to chat with Jan Zając, CEO of Sotrender about technology enabled social media marketing solutions, the key offering of Sotrender. He explained that Sotrender makes it easy to analyze social media campaigns by providing time saving reporting and a one stop social media dashboard with activities from your social media channels. Marketers can then turn data into insight to drive future social media activities.

I asked Jan how Sotrender uses technology to benefit its clients. “We leverage data through our IP to make the lives of marketers easier. They can achieve more with their limited resources by using Sotrender which provides automated interpretation of social media data, both theirs and their competitors.”

This is an interesting value proposition to marketers who must now up the priority of effective social media management on their To Do list. Jan makes it clear that his solution is optimal, “What takes them hours to do manually can now be done in minutes.” This sounds like technology working for you.

Fashion Tech Improves Personalized Style and Fit

For thousands of years custom made clothing filled all wardrobes. Mass production, enabled by the industrial revolution, created larger wardrobes with many more clothing options and a conundrum: there is no easy way to find affordable clothing that matches personal fit and style without the common pain points of retail shopping. But wait; this is the 21st century so can technology solve this problem and bring customization to the masses? A look at the upcoming VLAB event, Click to Fit: How Startups are Personalizing Fashion, and one might suppose the answer is yes.

Let’s hope so because I hate shopping for pants. You know the ritual, grab a few pairs of the same pant in different sizes, head to the dressing room and try them on. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The perfect pair is never there; perfect fitting slacks come after tailoring, either in the length, the seat or the waist.  Where are the perfect fitting jeans? On the same aisle as unicorns and pots of gold. As an added bonus, jeans aren’t tailor-friendly to get the fit just right.

Levi’s introduced Levi’s Curve ID fit system because “All asses were not created equal.”  Levi’s Curve ID seems to work for women, making it easier for them to find great fitting jeans as this CBS story reports:  Levis Making Customized Jeans for Reasonable Price

While Levi’s Curve ID appears to work for women, men only have a fit guide that displays pictures of the fourteen different fits. Now, not only do you need to know your waist and length, but your desired fit as well. As homework for this post and with fit guide in hand, I tried four fits 511, 513, 514, and 569 during a visit to the mall last week. It took 10 attempts to find the right pair:

Image

Could this be easier? Levi’s introduced Lot No. 1, custom made jeans. After a visit to San Francisco and a price tag starting at $750 a pair, custom jeans can be yours.  This solves the problem of personalized fit, but can this level of personalization be done at scale and will customers pay for it?

Made-to-measure men’s shirt company Trumaker found a way to provide great fitting dress shirts that are #BuiltToFit by using outfitters who provide a local fitting and they do it without breaking the bank. Your personal measurements are used again and again to build a closet full of favorite shirts through online re-ordering; bid farewell to the hassle of apparel stores and their concomitant fitting rooms.

For women, Stitch Fix battles the fitting room saga by shipping hand-picked items to you based on your personal style profile. Keep what you like and send the rest back. Your decisions create further insight into your personal style and more unique and interesting pieces come in your next Fix™.

Technology is the enabler for both Trumaker and Stitch Fix who will participate at the VLAB panel April 15, 2014. Without the internet, shipping tracking, inventory management systems and the ability to harness the power of analytics to turn data into insight, these innovative companies and companies like Warby ParkerOutfittery, J. Hilburn, and Zafu would not be able to provide value to their customers by putting technology to work for you.