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5 startups bringing AI, analytics, augmented reality, and more to retail

As shoppers demand new experiences, these companies are partnering with the Oracle for Startups program to infuse retail with needed advanced technology.


By Mitch Wagner | August 2021

As the economy spins up, consumers are returning to physical stores, while also continuing to shop online. But the retail experience is changing.

“A lot of people are keen to get back into the store and have that feeling of touching fabrics and shopping with friends,” says Jenny Griffiths, founder of the visual search company Snap Vision. “But retail has to be omnichannel—you need to be able to shop from social feeds, or get out your phone when you’re in a shop and get more information.”

Consumers demand more from physical and virtual stores, and the pandemic only accelerated changes that were already under way. Companies in the Oracle for Startups program are helping retailers transform the shopping experience with advanced technology such as visual search, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and new marketing analytics, all running on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). Let’s look at five of these companies.

Rodrigo Schiavini and Marlon Korzune

Cofounders Rodrigo Schiavini (left) and Marlon Korzune built SmartHint to match retailers with social media influencers in Brazil.

Snap Vision brings visual search

While a college student, entrepreneur Jenny Griffiths was passionate about computer science—and fashion. “We didn’t have a lot of money to buy clothes,” Griffiths remembers. “My friends and I would read magazines together, trying to get a look on a budget. Could we get the look from Vogue but on a student budget?”

The startup Griffiths founded combines both those passions. Snap Vision is an AI-based visual search platform for retail and ecommerce, which lets shoppers easily find clothes based on appearance. When built into a consumer app, Snap Vision’s algorithms analyze photos—such as an image of an out-of-stock item, or a photo shared on social media—to make recommendations of similar items to purchase. Retailers can use Snap Vision algorithms, embedded in their ecommerce sites, to direct consumers to related products, or to automatically generate descriptions through image analysis.

Snap Vision’s vision (so to speak) is to use AI to combine real-world shopping’s sensory richness and immediacy along with the convenience and wide choice of online shopping, says Griffiths. A consumer might see a product on social media, or in a fashion magazine, or on a retailer’s website that’s appealing, but not quite right or out of stock. Snap Vision helps find a similar product on a retailer’s website based on color, pattern, shape, hemline, neckline, and other visual criteria. The technology can even determine whether clothing is dressy or casual.

Snap Vision boasts impressive results for its business customers—doubling revenues for retailers through lifting both conversion rates and basket sizes, along with delivering a more than 100% increase in time spent online.

After migrating to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, Snap Vision saw 40% savings. Meanwhile, deployment time improved five-fold. OCI also delivers performance and reliability. “What really matters to us is fast infrastructure that we know won’t fall over,” she says. In addition to running on OCI, Snap Vision integrates with Oracle Commerce and Oracle Marketing. Prior to moving to Oracle, Snap Vision migrated from self-hosted servers to another cloud provider, and then to OCI, to save costs and gain support for managed Kubernetes.

SmartHint drives conversions

Like Snap Vision, SmartHint improves ecommerce conversion for retailers, which drives revenue. The company is an intelligent search and recommendation system, used by 10,000 online stores in Brazil, Latin America, and the US. Customers include New Balance, Lego, and Samsonite.

 

“A lot of people are keen to get back into the store and have that feeling of touching fabrics and shopping with friends. But retail has to be omnichannel—you need to be able to shop from social feeds, get out your mobile phone when you’re in a shop and get more information.”

Jenny Griffiths, founder and CEO, Snap Vision

When a customer is looking at a product online, SmartHint’s artificial intelligence algorithms recommend other products a customer might like. Retailers start giving out recommendations within days of going live with the service. To make recommendations, SmartHint aggregates and anonymizes shopping data from all the retailers it serves. The company processes more than 60 million requests daily.

SmartHint’s software makes recommendations while protecting consumer privacy. “It recognizes the action, not the person,” says Rodrigo Schiavini, CEO and cofounder. That differentiates SmartHint’s software from Amazon, which keeps track of customer identity.

SmartHint now uses Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, after migrating off Google, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and IBM. SmartHint values Oracle’s support, customer service, and low cost, Schiavini says.

Airfluencers: The influencer matchmaker

Airfluencers matches retail companies with social media influencers who can help market the brand. The company uses AI running on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure to process and analyze millions of social media profiles, identifying the content, topic, objects in photos, and other information. It works by combining image recognition and natural language processing. The Brazilian company has about 100 customers, including Unilever, American Airlines, Santander, and WPP.

vrglass

Using augmented reality, a child can bring a drawing of a bird to life. VRGlass, a company in the Oracle for Startups program, created the project for office supplies manufacturer Faber-Castell.

Consumer brands are investing in social media influencers to build demand for their products, but they’re largely relying on gut feelings to measure results, says Airfluencers CEO Rodrigo Soriano. Gut feeling isn’t good enough—media investment requires metrics and predictive analytics, to be able to analyze past results to predict future outcomes.

“Most marketers track buzz. As soon as marketers start tracking sales and traffic, money is going to flow in this market,” Soriano tells the Oracle for Startups podcast. “We provide a solution from end to end, where they can see traffic, buzz, and sales. And we believe this is the future of this market.”

In addition to technology, Airfluencers provides professional services to put that technology to work, working with in-house marketing agencies to develop content and manage campaigns. The company’s AI-driven software categorizes influencers into hundreds of topics, including, for example, beauty, nails, and hair—with subcategories for gray hair, curly hair, brown hair, and more. If a client needs a more specific topic, Airfluencers creates it for them.

Oracle saved Airfluencers 70% in computing infrastructure costs, and the Oracle for Startups program has helped the company find customers. Oracle introduced Airfluencers to HOPE Lingerie, a major brand and Oracle Commerce customer, and HOPE inked a deal with Airfluencers within 72 hours after seeing the company’s capabilities.

Airfluencers sought a strong technology and business partnership, so it migrated from Google Cloud—where it paid $13,000 monthly—to OCI. Oracle provided improved scalability, cost savings, and performance. Additionally, Airfluencers is integrating with Oracle marketing and customer loyalty solutions.

Anavid brings ecommerce analytics to the real world

Anavid applies analytics to video feeds from security cameras to help retailers learn how customers interact with merchandise. These insights help merchants optimize store layouts, improve product placement, engage with customers, and boost sales.

“This product aims to resolve a big problem in physical retail—they have a lot of visitors, but they know very little about their visitors,” says Anavid CEO Ahmed Chaari. “The conversion rate is very low.”

The startup runs AI algorithms on NVIDIA processors in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. It also taps an Oracle mentor who helps with go-to-market strategy, which is another facet of the Oracle for Startups program.

Ohmar Tacla

Ohmar Tacla founded VRGlass, which applies virtual reality and augmented reality to retail.

Anavid tapped Oracle because it has a strong presence in the retail sector and at an innovation hub in Paris, where Oracle is showcasing Anavid’s product to potential customers.

VRglass takes retail to mixed reality

VRGlass produces virtual reality and augmented reality applications and virtual events for companies in retail and other industries. The 10-year-old Brazilian company’s customers include the NBA, Adidas, Universal Music, Visa, Hershey’s, Unilever, and more. VRGlass participates in an Oracle Customer Innovation Labs project in São Paulo, Brazil, envisioning the future of retail.

VRGlass believes virtual reality can bring the best of the physical shopping experience into cyberspace. “In a virtual store, you can have immersive navigation. You can walk around,” says VRGlass founder Ohmar Tacla. “You can go with your friends, like you’re in a shopping mall.”

VRGlass also brings cyberspace to the physical world. In 2018, the company organized a scavenger hunt for Carrefour, a French supermarket, using augmented reality and Wi-Fi location triangulation to let shoppers catch virtual coupons around the store. For German office supplies manufacturer Faber-Castell, VRGlass created an augmented reality educational app where pointing an iPhone at a pencil transformed the pencil into a 3D animal. VRGlass also made augmented reality racing games for Budweiser, allowing players to see cars racing around through their phones in augmented reality on the floor of a supermarket. And an augmented reality project by VRGlass for Hertz let users visualize a 3D car, to allow customers to shop for rental cars ahead of a trip.

VRGlass uses Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and customer loyalty and engagement software Oracle CrowdTwist. The company chose to work with Oracle for its breadth of products, superior technical support, and consulting services. The team at Oracle Brazil “are always available. We’ve been working them almost daily for a year,” Tacla says.

VRGlass migrated from Digital Ocean and Amazon Web Services. While testing AWS, “We used to get huge bills from out of nowhere,” Tacla says. “We didn’t have any relationship with them. We were just a number with them. With Oracle, it was really different.”

Photography: J Galione/Getty Images; SmartHint; VRglass

Mitch Wagner

Mitch Wagner

Mitch Wagner is a senior writer at Oracle. He is a veteran technology journalist and was previously executive editor at Light Reading and InformationWeek.