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Hold my beer: Robots that make in-store shopping fun?!

The Tokinomo robot
Image credit: The Tokinomo robot, company website
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Last month, Tokinomo, the startup designing in-store marketing robots, entered the Japanese market. And that was only its latest stop. Based in Romania, the company has been expanding rapidly across the world, winning recognition for making in-store shopping fun and exciting, thus bringing it back to the attention of marketers – and their budgets. Just last year, the company raised 700K in a seed round from Early Game Ventures and angel investors, mostly part of TechAngels, to accelerate growth and develop the technology.

How it started

Tokinomo was launched by a team of advertising experts determined to close the digital gap in in-store marketing. To create the technology that would make in-store marketing competitive against the boom in online marketing, the team was joined by engineers and software developers. The result? Tokinomo, the solution that helps products “talk and move”, as the name suggests.

Essentially, Tokinomo has built a customer engagement platform that can help increase in-store sales through customer interaction. The customer-facing technology consists of robots placed on store shelves that can move the products, bringing them into the spotlight. They are connected wirelessly to a web platform that manages the robots and analyses the data collected. There is also a mobile app designed to ease the installation process.

To understand how disruptive and effective the experience can be, we had a closer look at brands and retailers that used Tokinomo. One example is the partnership with Auchan Tradizione, the French retailer’s private label coffee. 

In this pilot campaign, Auchan used the Tokinomo robots and audio messages to help shoppers connect with the brand, complimenting shoppers in a humorous way.

What truly speaks for the startup’s winning formula to in-store marketing are the results. In Auchan’s case, sales increased by an impressive 841% in just two weeks. Overall, Tokinomo says its campaigns brought brand clients a 200% average increase in sales.

Since launching, Tokinomo has received multiple awards in recognition of its display and retail innovations. But how did the team experience the last two pandemic years?

How it’s going

Ionut Vlad, founder and CEO of Tokinomo
Ionut Vlad, founder and CEO of Tokinomo

“Across the world, everyone has been battling with the pressures of the pandemic and the same can be said about the retail sector. Buyer behaviour has shifted dramatically, with many not excited about branching out and shopping, especially with social distancing and safety measures in place,” Ionut Vlad, founder and CEO of Tokinomo, shared with The Recursive.

At Tokinomo, the team faced these challenges as opportunities to improve the customer experience. They continued to work with brands and retailers to create engaging POS, with the goal “to raise product awareness, but also to connect with customers, entertain, and hopefully raise a couple of smiles as well,” Ionut added.

The hard work in the face of adversity helped the company reach a 5 times growth on brand activation campaigns at a global level. Total revenue to date and monthly recurring revenue are both more than 5 times higher compared to the previous year, Ionut shared. 

Results show that there is still confidence in in-store marketing and that demand for POS activation is growing. They expanded their global network of partners last year, adding 35 certified partners across the world that work with various FMCG brands.

What the future will bring

How will in-store shopping and marketing look like in the next 5 years? “More innovative, digital, and data-driven marketing. Just like Tokinomo,” Ionut Vlad concluded.

With the advent of online shopping, customers already have more control than ever on the shopping experience. They also have more and more options. One of the biggest challenges for retailers and brand marketing teams is to create experiences that surprise, connect, and are remembered.

While brick-and-mortar may remain to the most part unchanged, there will be a shift in the adoption of technology for in-store marketing, Ionut predicted: 

“Retailers will adopt intelligent tools and solutions to improve the in-store shopping experiences and make in-store marketing more entertaining and customized. And speaking of customization, that’s indeed one significant change we see for retail in the next five years. In-store marketing and brand activations will become more personalized, and audiences will be targeted more accurately with relevant information and real-time interactions.”

In general, the use of robots could give retailers the opportunity to gather new data on customer retail behavior, indicating preferences and trends, and helping markets create personalized experiences.

Going forward, Tokinomo will be focusing on R&D, developing new product features that will help brands and retailers achieve better customer engagement.

“Expanding our global footprint and gaining more market share is also on top of our priorities; that’s why we’re at the stage right now where we are growing our sales and marketing teams with new key members that can make a real difference. 

We already have partnerships in most Southeast European countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Serbia, and Slovenia, and we are certainly looking to enter new markets as well,” Ionut explained.

To fuel these plans, the company also plans raising a new investment round in the near future.

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Antoanela is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive with a knack for sustainability and environment protection. She is on a mission to communicate and celebrate innovative ideas and solutions that improve our ability to thrive together on this planet.