Startups Spotlight: Employee engagement, elevating store experiences and more

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Startups Spotlight: Employee engagement, elevating store experiences and more

By Anne Marie Stephen - 11/29/2016

If you’re concerned about employee engagement and reducing your staff turn-over numbers, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there’s a startup offering solutions to meet your workers engagement goals and encourage your associates to stay onboard and thrive with your team. Other companies in the spotlight this month are innovating around point-of-purchase mobile marketing, using in-store scents to stand out, real-time store promotional display monitoring and creating meaningful and memorable customer experiences.

You Earned It

Employee retention is an ongoing struggle for many retailers, which spend about 16% of the average hourly worker’s annual wages on turnover each year. Assuming the average store associate earns around $21,140 annually, it costs a company $3,500 to replace each departing employee. Those costs add up quickly for large retail enterprises; a company of Walmart’s size can bleed around $1 billion annually on attrition.

Clearly, there’s an incentive to attract great employees — and to keep them. Engaged employees simply make sense (and cents) for the corporate bottom line, leading to 25% lower turnover, 21% greater productivity, 22% higher profits and a 37% drop in absenteeism.

Startups like You Earned It offer solutions and strategies that retailers can implement to boost engagement among employees, helping them to feel valued and like they’re making a meaningful difference. Dunkin’ Donuts worked with You Earned It to reinforce and incentivize certain on-the-job worker behaviors, such as strong attendance and encouraging upselling to increase sales. The coffee chain customized the program for each staff member, ensuring that goals tailored to the worker more likely to be met and incentives truly motivated each individual employee to follow through.


BlueFox’s mission is straightforward: to provide cost-efficient tools that help retailers bridge the data and analytics gap between the physical and digital worlds. The company wants to improve on the costly and all-too-broad shopper marketing solutions that dominate physical retail and bring some of the granularity typical of digital commerce into the mix for brick-and-mortar.

BlueFox adds a twist to what has become the customary approach to and mobile marketing. Whereas most solutions need beacons and Bluetooth to push out offers and messages to shoppers in or near a physical store, the Bluetooth Engage platform instead leverages the simplicity of text messaging to send coupons and more to consumers with smartphones who have opted in to receive retail communications.

The startup chose to bypass Bluetooth because of the statics around its usage: just 10 percent to 15 percent of consumers have Bluetooth turned on their smartphones, and systems using Bluetooth and beacons require shoppers to download an app in order to participate. BlueFox’s plug-and-play setup requires zero integration with the store’s IT infrastructure, helping retailers to get up and running and reaching shoppers quickly.


Fragrance has a special way of leaving a lasting impression. Certain scents can act as mood boosters, and a pleasant fragrance can lead to a positive, lasting memory of a good experience. Emerging research shows that shoppers experiencing an agreeable scent can feel as if they’re receiving better service from a store associate. Another study indicates that shoppers in the checkout line felt like their wait time was shorter — simply because they were standing in a scented location.

Clearly, scents hold the power to alter one’s impression of an experience, often for the better. Tapping into this potential, Inhalió Ambient is a scent marketing tool designed to disperse scents throughout sizeable open spaces such as retail stores and hotel lobbies. Available in two formats, the Inhalió Ambient Panel covers a range of up to 40 square meters while the Inhalió Ambient Lobby Box is geared toward spaces between 25 square meters and 120 square meters.

Imagine being able to deploy a fresh fragrance that captures the essence of a new spring fashion collection or a warm inviting scent that evokes the changing temperatures of cozy spirit of autumn. Retailers can use scents as a powerful tool to elevate and differentiate the store experience and better reinforce the brand identity.


This Austin-based startup made waves in 2015 when it created a beacon-driven in-store promotional platform for 36 GameStop stores nationwide to engage shoppers at the store shelf. Now the company is taking point-of-purchase merchandising one step further by launching a standalone cardboard display embedded with the same sensors that track product through the supply chain so brands can monitor how their goods are performing and make real-time changes to the display if the original campaign, as planned, is underperforming.


At a time when catering to the consumer is everything, HEROFi focuses on creating great in-store customer experiences. From modern payments systems and employee incentive and engagement programs to customer loyalty, tablet deployments and retail television networks, HEROFi has the expertise to create game-changing digital products. Not only does HEROFi build new projects from scratch but it also can partner with clients to fix failed efforts that never really went anywhere. Retailers reasonably well versed in software development can license HEROFi’s guest experience platform for a do-it-yourself approach.

Anne Marie Stephen is the CEO and founder of KWOLIA[email protected](@AnneMarie_ams).