When Eric Green co-founded Planet People Co., a company creating and packaging eco-friendly cleaning products, he learned very quickly how difficult it is to get information from the retailers selling his products on their store shelves.
It might seem intuitive to want to know how well a specific product is selling, or whether a manufacturer like Planet People should be making more of a hot, in-demand item. But a lot of this information just isn’t passed back and forth between retailers and suppliers, Green says.
“We would launch a new product, and we would have very little or very poor visibility into how it was actually selling at store level,” he says. “I would see our sales guys were completely in the dark as the retailer wasn’t sharing this information.”
Green was at the helm of Planet People for seven years – and then, he co-founded a new company to solve the problem he faced at his old one.
Enter Askuity Inc., a startup focused on drilling down into big data to give both retailers and suppliers insight on their sales and inventory. Last week, the Toronto-based startup of about 12 employees launched its platform – and today, it announced it’s closed a $1.8 million round of seed funding, led by dunnhumby Ventures and the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, as well as a group of angel investors.
There are three main facets of Askuity’s platform. It allows retailers and suppliers to tap into data and get visualizations of insights on point-of-sales and inventory, as information on all of the products a big box retailer may be selling could be overwhelming. It also allows retailers and suppliers to get alerts to see which stores are doing well, what inventory needs to be refreshed, what products need to be ordered again, and so on.
And finally, Askuity offers a mobile feature, making it easy for sales managers, marketers, and account managers to visit individual store locations and instantly pull up information, without having to carry sheaves of paper and reports. Askuity’s app pinpoints their location and ensures they have all the relevant data they need.
Multiple retailers can also be on one platform, showing suppliers how sales of their products are doing with each retailer. It’s easier to see it in one place, rather than referring to each retailer’s spreadsheets, Green says.
For example, one of Askuity’s biggest customers is Source for Sports, a chain of sporting goods stores with more than 150 locations across Canada. If Source for Sports noticed a particular model of figure skate was selling particularly well, for example, they could ensure they could put in an order with a manufacturer quickly enough to stay stocked throughout the winter season.
“Really, that’s where the rubber hits the road in a sense – in retail execution, making sure you have the product on the shelf at the right time is key to succeeding,” Green says.
In terms of security, data sets belonging to retailers and their suppliers are kept in a multi-tenanted cloud, he adds. Pricing depends on the number of data sets and the number of users a company wishes to enable on Askuity’s platform.