(Philadelphia, PA) Brick and Mortal Retailers have nothing but good days to look forward to thanks to start-ups dedicating their technology to help these retailers gain an advantage, or at the very least be competitively at par with online retailers. Brick and mortar companies have been facing the problem of competition with the titan known as online shopping for some years now. Frankly, there is a convenience that comes with online shopping and the technology these online retailers can utilize to analyze their customer’s shopping patterns that allows them to optimizing their advertising to reach more sales. But what if there were a way for brick and mortal retailers to achieve this same kind of optimization?
Enter, Prayas Analytics, an analytics startup focusing on “quantifying the customer experience for brick-and-mortar retailers.” The founders of the company, Yash Kothari and Prashnu Mageshwari, students at the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania, created this solution to focus on improving store operations through the idea of gathering data that would help retailers simply by improving the existing in-store infrastructure. They recognized that this was a problem for many businesses, and they realized that there was inefficiency when it came to store operations. As co-founder, Yash Kothari, explains, “there are huge companies, but they can’t optimize.”
Prayas’ goal is to improve and transform the way that offline retailers see their customers by taking an approach that is different from a mere ‘improved’ marketing strategy: the team at Prayas Analytics is focused on obtaining the necessary data to optimize store operations. Prayas helps facilitate this by using in-store cameras that can gather quantitative data that can help piece together qualitative trends. Through access of store security footage, the team can run analytics on the store video footage and track changes in pixels, which allows them to analyze movements, customer paths, and even customer waiting patterns within a store. The great thing about this technology is that Prayas can answer questions that would be helpful to business owners such as, “What is the probability of waiting in line if the line gets too long?” –this information can be extremely useful for business owners so that they can adapt to these changes and develop a strategy to enhance their operations. Another great feature about Prayas Analytics is that they collect all this data without infringing upon their customers’ privacy: the technology used by Prayas allows them to transform their customers into unrecognizable “blobs” of pixels so that they cannot be identified. This way, customers can always rest assured knowing that their privacy is being respected.
Their start-up, which started in 2013, already has several businesses benefiting from their services. But like all start-ups, there were certainly obstacles that the founders faced while getting Prayas analytics off the ground. Mr. Kothari described the initial momentum of the company as a learning experience for both of the co-founders. Mr. Kothari explains, “It’s easy to think that things will be fun and easy…but it gets hard.” He continued by elaborating that it is important for businesses to find their niche, rather than try to do everything—specialization is something that helped Prayas find what types of analytics they did best.
Aside from the importance of specialization, promotion was another important factor that both co-founders needed to execute. Mr. Kothari elaborated on Prayas’ original promotional strategy: they began by offering pilots of their technology to businesses and retailers, so that the business owners could see how the service works, and too see if this would actually be a good investment for them. Indeed, the business owners soon saw the advantages they could gain from using Prayas, however, a big step after providing people with pilots was persuading these business owners to become paying customers. This, of course, is an obstacle that all start-ups have to face, but as Mr. Kothari explained, what matters is that after they take that big step and decide to make an investment for their business they receive a product that will provide results and that has excellent client support. In other words, whatever product or services a start-up provides, it is important to remember that consumers and fellow businesses are investing in you, and consequently it is vital that you provide them with a product or service that will prove to be worthy of the investment.
Through their innovative service, Prayas has managed to obtain several paying customers that have nothing but rave reviews about their business. Surely, the importance that Prayas gives to their clients has been a definite ‘hook’ that keeps businesses working with them and that is beckoning more and more brick-and-mortal retailers to seek their services. There’s no doubt about it: Prayas is moving up the start-up ladder. The wonderful thing about the guys working at Prayas Analytics is that aside from being a business, they recognize that what they do entails meeting real-life business owners and interacting with them rather frequently. This has made the co-founders realize the impact that a good service can bring to a business in need of some help. It is a mutual relationship between the two; the service benefits the business, and the business provides the service with helpful feedback on how to improve the start-up. This is certainly no secret: when asked what advice he would give to aspiring start-up owners, Mr. Kothari explained, “Speak to the customers as much as possible and receive as much feedback about the service you are providing them with.” It will make a difference for your start-up, just as it did for Prayas Analytics.