Backed by $3 million, Nomi seeks to bridge online and offline retail with omni-channel platform

By Erin Griffith , written on February 11, 2013

From The News Desk

If, as Marc Andreessen predicts, brick-and-mortar retail will be completely eclipsed by e-commerce, consider Nomi the traditional retailer's knight in shining armor. The New York company, started by former executives of Salesforce and Buddy Media today announced its launch alongside $3 million in seed funding from First Round Capital, alongside Greycroft Partners, SV Angel, Forerunner Ventures, Ralph Mack, David Tisch, Andy Dunn and Sam Decker. It's goal? Close the gap between in-store and online commerce.

The company says it is the first tech startup to address "omni-channel" marketing, which is a new buzzword that basically means "online plus offline." No longer is mere multichannel marketing sufficient. CMO's must now track all, of, the, channels. In the same way that, in 2010, companies scrambled to appoint heads of social media and implement social SaaS platforms like Buddy Media, retailers today, including Saks and Macy's, are investing in omni-channel.

The problem, Nomi's Chief Revenue Officer Wesley Barrow explains, is that large retailers view their e-commerce site as one store, and it is pitted competitively against other brick and mortar stores. The siloed approach hurts the company overall, because the stores don't share data and aren't able to create a strong overall customer experience. Further, stores that use a commission model for salespeople have an interest in pushing a customer to buy in the store, despite the fact that many customers prefer to "showroom," or try out a product in the store and purchase online.

Omni-channel marketing seeks to tear down the silos between the two, integrating data from inventory, point of sale systems, marketing, and customer service departments together. "Retailers are realizing that no single customer is online only or in-store only -- it's usually a mix of the two," Barrow says.

Nomi hopes to bridge the gap between online and offline for retailers with a tracking tool that acts almost like a real-life web browsing cookie. "Amazon knows when you abandon a shopping cart," Barrow says, but brick and mortar retainers have very little in the way of data on their customers. In real life, the best thing a store has is a security camera that counts foot traffic and compares it with number of purchases.

Nomi's hardware improves on that by finding the wifi signal on a users' smartphone and using it to anonymously track their length of time in the store and whether they return. The identifier is basically like an IP address, so it is not personally identifiable. However, if shoppers choose to share their email address with a sales associate, any online purchase can be attributed to that associate, allowing the store to pay a commission for e-commerce sales. "We know in the future people will want to opt into this kind of thing because they get this extra layer of service with the retailer knowing who they are," Barrow says.

The tools include a hardware component and a software layer that analyzes data for retailers. It's being piloted with a number of chains and small retailers, Barrow says.

It is the first startup spawned by Buddy Media, the social SaaS player which sold to Salesforce over the summer for $689 million. The deal was New York's biggest exit last year and will likely continue feeding the New York tech scene with angle investment dollars and new adtech startups.