Nomi Adds In-store Messaging to Offline Measurement

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Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 9.45.55 AMWhen three Salesforce veterans Marc Ferrentino, Corey Capasso and Wesley Barrow, raised $3 million in two weeks last year to launch Nomi, the pitch for the company was clear: unite the online and offline worlds. That vision, however, will have to wait — for now, at least.

The New York-based startup has put its omni-channel efforts on ice, opting instead to move deeper into the proximity marketing business by adding in-store messaging capabilities to its existing measurement and analytics products.

The proximity marketing product, Nomi Mobile, uses a Bluetooth LE beacon to enable retailers to send notifications, rewards, and other messaging to customers on their existing mobile applications as they walk through the store.

The system also allows users to retrieve content on their mobile phone by “knocking” the device against a beacon. The action is meant to mimic the functionality of near field communications (NFC), the fabled, yet poorly adopted, technology that many thought would open the door for mobile payments and in-store marketing.

“In an attempt to bridge the online and offline world, there was a massive black hole — a part of that store which had almost no data. So we’ve focused over the last year to elevate the level of data coming out of the physical world to be on par with the amount of data you see online,” says Ferrentino. “Omni-channel is one of those highly overloaded terms, which often means something different to everyone. Right now the infrastructure is going in — I don’t think it’s as imminent as some may think.”

Over the past few years, many of the large retailers have made omni-channel — the concept of selling seamlessly across desktop, mobile, and brick-and-mortar — a focal point of their strategic plans as they look to find a third way between selling online and sustaining their brick-and-mortar presences. However, while retailers like Macy’s have been vocal about their efforts to allow customers to move between digital and in-store channels, the bulk of their efforts have focused on streamlining inventory, which Ferrentino says is demonstrative of the maturity of the movement.

Within the technology sector, Nomi’s move points to a growing schism among a young class of in-store measurement startups, with some firms moving forward as analytics businesses and others, like Nomi, using the analytics product as a foundation for a broader marketing services business. Ferrentino says the company is modeling its strategy off of some of the early online businesses like Omniture, which started with analytics and then built a wider marketing suite.

“Analytics are critically important in helping understand [what’s going on], but the next step needs to be figuring out how to activate those data,” he told me in an interview. “Can you be an analytics company? Of course, you can. But the reality is that a business buyer wants a solution, and something that helps them take action.”

A marketing service — particularly one that centers around a new behavior — will require a much larger client services operation than a straightforward analytics business. This means that unlike competitors like Euclid, Nomi will need to stay in the branded pastures, staying away from the SMB market until the proximity marketing concept is proven out and best practices are developed.

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.