Is physical retail dead? Not according to XPOLI, a dynamic company offering physical retailers the unique chance to successfully challenge e-commerce. By collecting data from different sources, the innovatory solution is able to provide store owners with the full picture about their customers’ behavioural patterns, wishes and struggles. In combination with increased customer interest in shopping in person after the Covid-19 pandemic, the ESA BIC Bavaria incubatee aims to ignite the revival of cities and their retail business. An interview with Thomas Pellkofer (TP), CEO of XPOLI.
LK: How would you explain what you do to someone who has never heard of your company before? Please give us a sneak peek of your product and the team behind it.
TP: Our products offer physical retailers the unique chance to successfully challenge e-commerce. Instead of taking a stab in the dark and collecting feedback from customers occasionally, we offer the physical retailer the full picture: How do customers behave in the store, do they find what they are looking for, what is annoying them? The sky is the limit.
How we achieve this: Our solution uses motion sensors that track every movement using artificial intelligence (AI) to extrapolate entire and distinct paths for each individual customer within the store, the so-called anonymous “Customer Journey”.
This data is then analysed to identify, for example, the dwell time, high-impact products, or velocity. We can also identify specific patterns of behaviour. Those patterns lead to new methods of store design or predicting future shopping trends. Given the granularity of the data, aspects of sustainability such as stock and waste reduction can be addressed.
XPOLI is an interdisciplinary, intercultural, cross-generational team that has already worked together successfully in the past. Focusing on the power of the complete customer journey combined with excellent sales and marketing networks, as well as reliable corporate governance, it is the guarantee of a successful business strategy.
LK: Your company has recently secured a 7-figure sum of seed funding – Congratulations! How do you plan on proceeding with these funds and what are the next steps for your business?
TP: We are more than honoured and proud that we achieved this funding round. We have a clear road map of what our next steps look like thanks to the crowd-investors and our three new business angels. This will enable us to finance our business expansion. We’ll grow our team by hiring a strong sales representative and by reinforcing our development team. In terms of technology and products, we will further complete the development with a next-generation motion sensor. The new sensor will decrease implementation costs and will increase application fields, thereby getting one big step closer to an in-depth understanding of customer behaviour in physical stores.
LK: Retail and space don’t seem to be a likely match at first glance. How is XPOLI linked to space technology?
TP: XPOLI initially started with RF-based tracking. As a result of the outcome and the use case within retail, it had to pivot by developing its own motion-based tracking sensor, as well as a fully holistic approach by finding the appropriate way of incorporating a digital twin.
XPOLI is also making sure that tracking-based path analytics will be able to work with future 5G/6G tracking information within the sensor fusion path model. The concept has already been taken into consideration within XPOLI’s IP road map.
XPOLI GmbH is aware of ESA’s work on using artificial intelligence for collision avoidance and telemetry monitoring. It looks forward to learning from the current applications and applying the results as far as possible, as well as using AI for classification within large data/big data analysis, which represents XPOLI’s raison d’être.
LK: How is ESA BIC Bavaria helping you to kick-start your business case?
TP: The incubation programme is more than supportive on multiple levels, starting with very basic things like providing office space and a fully functioning infrastructure from day one. All this is paired with a supportive team of experts that not only continuously follows the progress made, but also provides regular training and/or support by external experts who add to the skills of XPOLI’s team. ESA BIC Bavaria’s network not only covers the technical side but extends far into the sector of finance and business, with close relationships with local banking, for instance.
LK: What were your biggest challenges so far and how did you overcome them?
TP: Although nobody really wants to hear it anymore, the biggest challenge is and has been the pandemic. Developing a new business has its natural challenges, like how to get financed, how to build your customer base or whether your technology is viable and whether you will enter the market. But trying to advance under such unusual circumstances makes all these challenges even bigger. These days, uncertainty is increasing with the pandemic and now with the war in Ukraine, making the acquisition of new staff even harder. Nevertheless, our vision and opportunity, conveyed by our unique first-time technology, is understandable and meaningful for everyone. Our current and future staff want to go shopping in person today as well as tomorrow and make this experience even more enjoyable.
LK: What do you tell people who argue that “retail is dead” and stores will gradually disappear in favour of online shops?
TP: This is certainly wishful thinking for online business investors. The opposite is the case: these days, people want to shop in person locally and, after spending months confined, take their time to experience shopping in physical stores. This is igniting the revival of cities and their retail business, which gives XPOLI the opportunity to introduce its tools to the marketplace at the perfect time so that physical retail is able to challenge e-commerce.
LK: Let’s reach for the stars – what is going to happen in XPOLI’s future?
TP: XPOLI has a clear road map for the next few years. 2022 will see an expansion into Europe, with customers in the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, and Norway already. In 2023 and 2024, the focus will be on introducing XPOLI’s technology to North America, starting with the east coast, and then roll it out to the rest of the US and Canada.
Meanwhile, we’re constantly further developing our understanding of customer behaviours and expectations regarding their shopping experiences, helping physical retailers to give YOU a great time in their stores.
Long story short, XPOLI will become a global player on the retail analytics market, driven by European standards and delivering you a genuine shopping experience.
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