FEATURED IN RTIH: Exclusive interview with Advertima CEO Iman Nahvi

25 February 2020 by Scott Thompson, Editor at RTIH

Interview featured in Retail Technology Innovation Hub

RTIH: Tell us about Advertima

IN: Advertima uses advanced 3D vision and AI technology to unlock the last frontier of consumer understanding. Companies have terabytes of consumer behavior data, but this information comes from the web or smartphones. We deliver the last piece of the consumer data puzzle, data from the physical world.

For example, we help some of the world’s biggest retailers to deliver precise advertising campaigns via their in-store digital screens. This level of precision is proven to increase sales and revenue, all via our ability to generate data to truly understand things such as consumer sentiment, consumer context and advertisement engagement in the real world.

Another use case of our technology is that it can be used in frictionless shopping. We are working with one of Europe’s biggest retailers to develop the shopping experience of the future, a truly autonomous store. Again, the success of autonomous shopping is dependent on technology being advanced enough to collect the right data for the AI layer to then make accurate decisions about the consumers’ shopping experience (product selection, checkout, etc.).

RTIH: What was the inspiration behind setting the company up?

IN: The internet has profoundly changed consumers’ needs and expectations with e-commerce making shopping much easier and more convenient. My co-founders and I realised that although there was a shift to e-commerce, there will always be physical retail stores because consumers will always want to meet and have experiences. The internet will not kill physical retail, it’s just forcing it to change and get better and that’s why we founded Advertima.

The company was created with the premise that for retailers to survive they ultimately need one thing, more and better data. We have developed cutting-edge technology that solves the biggest problem that physical retailers face, understanding their consumers.

From the beginning, our goal was to provide real-world and real-time insights about consumer engagement and buying journeys in physical stores. By giving real-time access to this data we enable retailers to improve customer communications and offer shopping experiences that exceed expectations.

RTIH: What has been the industry reaction thus far?

IN: It has been absolutely fantastic. We have been blown away by the adoption of our technology and the fact that we now work with some of the biggest retailers in the world is testament to this. Our customers have been instrumental in shaping the direction of our company which is great as it means our development and roadmap are driven by the biggest and most innovative retailers in the world.

For example, we have been able to dramatically uplift sales at SPAR who use our Smart Signage solution to communicate the right message to their relevant audience in real time. They have been able to drive in-store purchase and due to this success, we are seeing an increasing demand from retailers in the EU and globally who understandably are interested in achieving the same results.

RTIH: What has been your biggest challenge/setback?

IN: When we founded Advertima, we strongly believed in developing artificial intelligence that respects people’s privacy. This is the reason why our edge technology has been built to respect consumers’ privacy from the ground up. Technology is developing faster than legislation and our data-driven innovation is no exception.

We have worked closely with the Swiss Privacy Office since 2016 and as a result we were fully prepared when GDPR was implemented in Europe in May 2018. We meticulously developed the entire architecture of our technology and its applications to be GDPR compliant.

Therefore, even though the first reaction of some companies was to put projects on hold, we guided our customers through the GDPR compliance process by highlighting the value of our technology while showing that our solutions do not impact customers’ privacy. I’ve always believed that GDPR is a positive development and is necessary to regulate the market.

“There will always be physical retail stores because consumers will always want to meet and have experiences. The internet will not kill physical retail, it’s just forcing it to change and get better and that’s why we founded Advertima.”

RTIH: What are the biggest challenges facing the omnichannel retail sector right now?

IN: To fulfill all customers’ needs, retailers know they have to provide a seamless omnichannel shopping experience that intelligently connects the digital and physical space, but this is not the current consumer reality. The digital channel delivers in terms of targeted marketing but the omnichannel proposition fails as soon as we get into physical stores.

The historical failure of omnichannel to deliver is based on what I discussed earlier, lack of data. The internet is awash with consumer data; in fact, that’s the only reason why companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon are so incredibly large.

Advertima is the bridge between the digital and physical space; we provide the missing layer of in-store data that retailers need. We complete the omnichannel puzzle by enabling retailers to seamlessly personalize the consumers buying journey, be it from online shopping to instore or vice versa.

RTIH: What’s the best question about your company or the market asked of you recently by an investor and a customer?

IN: I have been asked by an investor, “Why did you decide to develop a technology for brick-and-mortar stores while e-commerce is taking over global retail market shares?”

I explained to him that according to eMarketer’s figures even though e-commerce is currently growing faster than physical retail, it’s still a relatively small piece of the pie because in-store sales accounted for about 86% of total retail sales in 2019 and will only drop to 78% by 2023.

Amazon is a good example. Why would this digital native brand and the world’s largest e-commerce company move into the physical retail market if they didn’t see any potential or even threats?

I have been asked by a customer, “Why should I invest now in a technology like autonomous stores while this is not a current threat for my company? Right now, I have to focus on finding a solution to take care of a 2% decrease in last year’s revenue.”

This particular client, a large European retailer, was telling me they had to handle the current situation, work on a pricing strategy (lower prices) and focus on reacting to today’s competition. I explained to them that the real competition is not here yet and they and their competitors will be left behind in the future when, for example, Amazon Go expands into Europe.

In such a case, there will be no short-term solution to compete with the convenience, the efficiency and the customer experience provided by such stores. Therefore, store automation should be a strategic imperative for all grocers immediately.

RTIH: What can we expect to see from Advertima over the next 12 months?

IN: I am very excited about the next 12 months. We have been working hard developing our technology for the last four years and we are now in a position where we, and the retail market are ready to utilize AI and computer vision to its fullest potential. This means that we will be able to deliver more projects to more customers and realize better and higher ROI for them.