A Q&A with aisle411 co-founder and CEO Nathan Pettyjohn. The company was a Featured Startup on StartUp Beat back in July, and has since released version 2.0 of its in-store navigation app with new features and big plans for the future.
SUB: Please briefly explain what aisle411 is, and the value proposition you offer to consumers and merchants.
Pettyjohn: With the aisle411 platform, users can easily create and manage shopping lists in any store, plan and search recipes, locate items and share experiences with friends via social media integration. aisle411 has partnered with ZipList, a leading recipe search and shopping list platform to integrate the entire shopping experience with aisle411’s in-store navigation platform.
aisle411’s core technology is its in-store, item level aisle navigation solution, which allows users to map thousands of products throughout the store. The technology can be integrated seamlessly with other shopping list technologies, recipe search technologies and digital coupon technologies.
SUB: You recently released version 2.0 of your app—what new features does it include?
Pettyjohn: Version 2.0 of the aisle411 app provides new and enhanced features that can be used in any store. The Shopping List Manager enables management of multiple shopping lists by topic or retailer. Lists can be built online, on the device via typing, voice, or scanning, then routed once a shopper checks-in to a store. The Recipe Search provides access to more than 130,000 recipes, which can be integrated with shopping lists, and routed via Aisle Navigation. Search inside participating stores for the section of the aisle of hard to find products with intuitive voice recognition technology powered by Nuance. Aisle Navigation maps an optimized path through participating stores with a digital map for one item or a whole shopping list. Instantly locate products down to the specific section of the aisle.
SUB: How many times has the app been downloaded to this point?
Pettyjohn: At this point, we are not disclosing this information.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea?
Pettyjohn: This was born out of frustration over wasting time in the store. I spent 10 minutes looking for a surge protector. I knew the technology was in the store system to locate the product, but it was frustrating trying to find someone who could tell me where it was.
SUB: How has the mobile in-aisle shopping platform business been changing/evolving since we last heard from you back in July?
Pettyjohn: Smartphone penetration and retail app growth is well documented. Initially, retail apps emerged as mobile portals to an ecommerce experience. Today, however, shoppers demand utility from their in-store apps and progressive retailers are quick to respond in the interest of customer service. Along with the evolution of mobile payment systems, price and inventory transparency, retailers are seeking ways to generate brand preference and loyalty by serving their customers with helpful mobile tools.
Item level, in-aisle navigation is the foundation from which all mobile in-aisle shopping services emerge. Walmart reports that three quarters to 92 percent of shoppers at Walmart U.S. stores bring lists when they shop. Eighty percent of shoppers report difficulty finding items in store and 23 percent of shoppers report abandoning items on their original purchase intent because they can’t find them in store. aisle411 brings together a pre-plan, list build and in-store execution platform that is seamlessly integrated with other shopping list technologies, recipe search technologies and digital coupon technologies.
SUB: How many retailers now use aisle411?
Pettyjohn: The aisle411 recipe engine and shopping list utility can be used anywhere you shop. The item level, in-aisle navigation feature is currently available in over 2,500 stores, with growth plans to be in tens of thousands of stores in 2012.
SUB: What have the biggest obstacles been to building the business so far?
Pettyjohn: aisle411 has maintained a consumer focus from day one. We’ve spent nearly three years building and refining the best available in-store shopping experience. Others have tried and failed to deliver item-level aisle navigation, but we’ve never allowed ourselves to take the easy path and we’ve always stayed true to our ultimate goal of helping people find things in store.
Two major obstacles that we’ve been able to succeed in are: accessing in-store inventory information from retailers so that we provide a truly enhanced shopping experience; and mapping a store is fairly simple, but connecting all the data to a map and organizing the data so it’s usable to a shopper was a big challenge. We feel this is now one of our greatest assets that others have not been able to accomplish.
By offering a great shopper experience, we’re now getting retailers calling us and asking how they can work with us, and we’re now able to scale out solutions rapidly since we’ve invested significant resources in our technology, user experience and market knowledge.
SUB: Do you plan to raise outside funding in the near future?
Pettyjohn: While I can’t speak publically to specifics of aisle411’s funding strategy, I generally feel most startups are always looking for capital resources to help them grow, weather that’s funding, talent or partners.
SUB: What are your goals for aisle411 over the next year or so?
Pettyjohn: We’ve entered the rapid growth phase of our company and will focus on continued product enhancements and increased distribution. Our objective over the next 6-to-12 months is to make the aisle411 item level, in-aisle navigation service available to millions of users at tens of thousands of retail locations. Our platform position, easy integration into strategic partner apps, and our superior understanding of shopper behavior and demand is our path to success. You’ll see aisle411’s platform embedded within retailers’ applications, along with several new features aimed at not just mapping stores, but enhancing the in-store shopping experience through location-based solutions.
aisle411 – www.aisle411.com