GoInStore was founded by André Hordagoda (pictured) and Aman Khurana in January 2015, and uses live video delivered by in-store staff to help online shoppers get a better view of a company's products.
The company is based in London, and currently serves six retail clients. It employs three full time directors with an offshore development team of seven, and has plans to grow aggressively over the next 12 months.
We fired our startup spotlight questions at Hordagoda to find out more about his e-commerce startup.
Tell us more about GoInStore
GoInStore delivers a service that closes the gap between the online and offline worlds. Essentially, we transport web customers in-store, in real time, to deliver a unique online shopping experience. Our goal is to help retailers maximise sales conversions, brand engagement and customer service.
Our technology uses smart glasses or a smartphone, which are worn or held by in-store staff members, to capture and stream live video and hold a two-way conversation with customers who are browsing the retail website.
We also have a server infrastructure and a unique artificial intelligence engine that matches the online visitor with the in-store sales assistant who is best placed to help them and close the purchase.
Online customers simply click the web link to 'GoInStore' from the retailer's site, and they are effectively able to ‘see through the eyes' of the selected in-store staff member and have a two-way conversation as if they were physically in the store.
With GoInStore, retailers are able to offer website visitors a unique service to improve the onsite user experience by providing a direct, real-time connection to knowledgeable in-store staff.
Why did you develop this service?
Having come most recently from the personalisation space, where sophisticated analysis of website behaviour is used to ‘personalise' the product and content offered, we realised that this was, in many ways, an attempt to account for the difference in experience in the digital channel versus in a physical store.
That key difference is human interaction. GoInStore addresses this gap in the customer experience by restoring to the process what most retailers consider to be their most valuable sales asset: trained retail staff. Successfully delivering the service is a technical feat, but we are fundamentally allowing people to engage in an extremely familiar way, as if they were in the store.
Ultimately, retailers are always looking at ways to increase conversion rates, and GoInStore moves the online conversion rate (somewhere around two to three percent, as a broad average) closer to that of in-store conversion rates, more often 10 times in comparison.
Tell us how you got your business off the ground
We absolutely believe in the concept and are getting great results so far. As testimony to this, to date we are completely self-funded, though have had significant interest from a variety of investors. We're weighing up our options.
What technology do you use?
In terms of hardware, the technology was originally designed to work with smart glasses, and early on we tested Google Glass, along with a similar product by a company called Vuzix, and Epson's BT200.
We moved forward with the Epson product as it was the most robust as far as our particular use case was concerned. We also redeveloped the service to work on most smartphones, which gives us market scalability as everyone has one.
With regards to software, we host the technology in the cloud, use Google analytics for now, and WebRTC for video streaming.
What level of funding have you received so far?
Nothing yet, but we are being romanced as we speak!
What challenges have you encountered to date?
The biggest challenge so far has been getting buy-in from the right people at the client end. While many businesses have the ambition to remove silos between their channels, the reality is that the moment your conversations go below C-level staff become protective of their revenue lines.
Consequently, where the board is concerned with revenue generation as a business, the physical store directors are protective of their discrete revenue and the digital channel directors of theirs.
Because of the crossover nature of what we do, covering the digital and physical retail worlds, we are actually empowering retail staff to contribute to the digital revenue channel, and it's completely measurable.
Now, if an online customer has a GoInStore session with a retailer and one of their in-store sales people remotely helps with the purchase, we can directly attribute that sale to the specific store or sales representative. We think it's only a matter of time before this way of thinking evolves.
What's been the biggest highlight of your business?
I'd have to say it would be the success our clients have had using the technology. In its first day of live use, Amari Supercars sold £100,000 worth of BMW i8 cars from its Preston showroom to a customer over 200 miles away in London. That was a great feeling.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
Pub. In all honesty, we're having too much fun, even on the bad days, to relax just yet.
What did you do before starting up?
I got into the e-commerce technology field over 10 years ago, starting out by selling email broadcast technology. I then moved into web analytics, followed by a role with a startup that dynamically created product video from retailers' product catalogue feeds.
Immediately prior to GoInStore, I worked in the algorithm-based personalisation technology space. Interestingly, it feels as though my last few positions have all converged and contributed to the rationale behind GoInStore.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
My favourite thing is it doesn't really feel like work anymore. The worst thing is when your total focus is on building something; it takes up a portion of your thoughts pretty much all of the time, so it's difficult to switch off.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which would it be?
LinkedIn just got it right. There was a time when I didn't even know why I was connecting with people, but they hit critical mass swiftly and now I have it open all day long.
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
We have worked remotely until recently, but are now hunting for our first office. It is a far bigger task than we had originally anticipated. I guess we are keen to create the right atmosphere and company ethos, so location and vibe are hugely important.
Our chief technology officer, Zeeshan Ghalib.
Smart or casual?
I'm a pocket square wearer, and have been for the last eight years (well before it became cool again!). They also tend to match my socks on any given day.
Coffee shop of choice?
I have a coffee grinding machine at home and I use Lavazza, no sugar, no milk. Everything else tastes fake now.
Beverage of choice?
Sparkling water with freshly squeezed lime.
Aqua on Argyll Street.
Just Eat. Well, maybe not favourite but definitely most used.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
Not as much as I would have liked. There are too many 'startup networking' companies making money from bootstrapping startups.
Could the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
The government is not doing too badly on this front. They provide a reasonable amount of help and guidance and offer pretty decent tax breaks to incentivise investors, namely the SEIS and EIS schemes.
However, the US still leads the way in terms of creating the best possible startup ecosystem for success, and the likes of Singapore, Israel and India are also right up there.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from IoT wireless network firm Nwave Technologies and 3D mapping platform developer eeGeo, to social listening app Twizoo and Android and iOS house-sharing app Chored.
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