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During the first two months of the pandemic, there were several questions about how to support brick-and-mortar businesses. While 71% of Americans still shop in person at least once a week (according to a 2021 Retail Brew-Harris Poll survey), physical locations have struggled — either because of the health crises or otherwise — to launch compelling customer experiences. For example, as Deloitte points out, retailers continue to face enormous challenges around optimizing space, visual merchandising, and appropriate zoning of “hot spots” within stores.
A single solution to the problem of improving the customer experience in physical stores is likely impossible. But Raydiant, a startup launched in 2017, aims to tackle one piece of the puzzle with what the company describes as a “digital signage” cloud-based platform. With customers including Chick-fil-A, The Salvation Army, Harvard University, and Redbull, Raydiant creates kiosks, virtual agents, and digital signage in retail stores and restaurants.
Improving retail experiences
Raydiant (formerly Mira) was started in 2017 by venture studio Atomic and Tuan Ho, who previously confounded internet TV company Philo, as a digital signage platform. In 2019, the company expanded its offering into an “experience platform,” according to CEO Bobby Marhamat — developing an operating system to power customer and employee “experience technologies.”
“We are at the intersection of two massive markets — the $32 billion customer experience market and the $42 billion employee experience market. Within these markets, our platform overlaps with two core existing markets: Signage and interactive and employee communication, rewards, and gamification,” Marhamat told VentureBeat via email. “[During the pandemic,] we quickly changed our company focus and had our sales team become customer success representatives, reaching out and helping businesses use our technology to communicate with customers, create self-service paths, and of course be able to survive the times so they could eventually thrive in these times.”
Raydiant aims to create, manage, and scale the experiences brands deliver to customers and employees at their physical locations. With the platform, companies plug an internet-connected device into a TV and can edit the content from Raydiant’s online dashboard, which also provides access to a range of digital signage applications.
“Raydiant alleviates the headache of managing multiple applications that are not connected and the cost of managing multiple technologies that need to be controlled manually, and the absence of being able to use this same technology that they already have to increase revenues, increment customer loyalty and satisfaction, and expand their brand presence is highly valuable,” Marhamat continued.
Raydiant recently acquired Sightcorp, an AI spinoff from the University of Amsterdam that provides AI-powered in-store analytics and digital out-of-home media. Sightcorp allows content owners to provide advertisers with insights based on analysis captured on-camera, including age, gender, impression and viewer counts, attention, and dwell times.
Some customers subjected to Sightcorp’s tracking might not be entirely comfortable with the idea, as a recent viral tweet demonstrated. Sightcorp used to track ethnicity, but removed the feature in 2017 on concerns that it might contravene the Europe’s data privacy laws.
Raydiant says that it blurs all faces by default “to ensure privacy” and is built to process all data offline and locally. We’ve reached out to Raydiant for more information about the software’s tracking capabilities and will update this article if we hear back.
Personalization in retail
Raydiant isn’t the only startup developing a platform to improve the in-store customer experience. For example, Advertima, which recently raised $17 million, offers AI that tracks shopping behaviors using computer vision and specialized hardware. Like Raydiant, Avertima provides digital signage, which have 3D sensors and software that track motion, skeletal information, and predicted walking paths.
The importance of a positive experience can’t be overstated. In its future of customer experience report, PricewaterhouseCoopers surveyed 15,000 consumers and found that one in three will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, while 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions. The Temkin Group found that companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of investing in customer experience.
Raydiant’s growth reflects the enthusiasm around customer service technologies. The over-100-person startup, which has new offices in Nashville, Tennessee and New York City, claims to have notched 357% year-over-year growth in 2021 with a customer base of over 4,500 brands.
“Unfortunately, brick and mortar business owners are struggling to deploy and analyze meaningful customer experiences, as startups have been racing to build these solutions for the web, leaving brick and mortars with fragmented options that are really challenging to implement,” Marhamat added. “Raydiant is seen as an innovator in the industry and will continue to invest in R&D as well to give brick-and-mortar companies the ability to thrive by growing into new locations and markets.”
Raydiant today announced that it raised $30 million in series B funding ($25 million in capital, $5 million in debt) led by 8VC and Atomic Ventures with participation from Lerer Hippeau, Gaingels, actor Mark Wahlberg, Haveli, Illuminate Ventures, and XRC. It brings Raydiant’s total raised to $50 million and will be used to “continue innovating the company’s product offerings through strategic acquisitions as well as hire key team members to execute on Raydiant’s go-to market strategy as the company moves up-market,” according to Maramat.