A Chat with Olga Kotsur, CEO and Co-Founder at Mercaux: The ‘Shopify’ For Physical Stores

Mercaux is a mission to help re-invent physical retail stores by connecting them to the digital world – after all, a customer’s path-to-purchase is not limited to one channel.

Today they might complete a transaction online or in-store, but the path they’ve taken is multichannel — they can be inspired by an Instagram post or find a product by browsing through eCommerce, but then subsequently purchase in-store, or indeed, be inspired in-store (where they get a fantastic level of service) and then purchase online. Therefore, retailers need to better consider this ‘omnichannel’ journey when it comes to the store – not just in terms of unifying inventory, but also the customer experience.

What we do is connect stores to all the backend systems that eCommerce currently benefits from (such as order management, customer relationship management, product information management and payments), in addition to eCommerce itself.

We then surface all this rich information into the hands of store associates through the Mercaux app, which is displayed on tablet or smartphone devices. This then allows the store associate to facilitate a much-improved shopping experience by using assisted selling, digital styling, clienteling and mobile POS solutions to serve the customer. In addition, it captures valuable in-store customer data that can be used later to deliver personalised online experiences and tailored marketing communications.

We also place all this technology into the hands of customers through self-service screens, digital fitting rooms and a web app that can be accessed by the shopper’s own mobile device via scanning a QR code in-store.
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How did you come up with the idea for the company?

My passion for retail technology began during my tenure at Boston Consulting Group where I consulted on technology and strategy. It was then during my MBA at Harvard Business School that I came up with the idea and found a technical co-founder, Alex Petrov – we realised that retail as we knew it was operating in silos – the online and offline worlds.

And whilst retailers were investing a lot in eCommerce, the gap between online and offline experiences was widening. It made logical sense to bring both worlds together. From day 1, we knew that the platform had to be modular so retailers could pick and mix the solutions they could deploy based on their business readiness.


How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

We needed to move quickly to support customers whose stores were forced to close and help those deemed “essential retailers” to cope with a huge rise in footfall, resulting in queues out of the door.

As a result, we deployed a new suite of remote selling solutions, giving retail staff the tools needed to communicate with customers stuck at home. We connected the WhatsApp messaging service to our Clienteling solution enabling store associates using the app to pull up the profile of the customer they are speaking to in order to see their online and in-store shopping history with the brand, review their previous purchases, online wish lists and notes from store associates to make the conversation hyper-personalised.

To accompany this, we gave the store associates tailored talking points. We did this by connecting WhatsApp to our Assisted Selling solution, so that the system recommends products and bundles based on their previous purchases for the store associate to share over WhatsApp. Yet again, this resulted in conversations being particularly relevant to that customer’s likes and preferences.

For customers that remained open, such as Holland & Barrett, we deployed a queue scenario which enabled staff to serve customers queueing outside of the store. The customer either told the staff what they were looking for, or the staff provided consultations using the app for their specific needs. The order was then sent to colleagues in-store who collected the products, packed up the bag and left it by the till. The customer then had to only walk into the store, pay, pick up and leave.

When stores were eventually allowed to reopen, we knew that there would be hesitancy for some shoppers to return, and those that did may want to keep socially distanced from store associates. In response, we deployed our Consumer QR Web App (months before Amazon announced a similar initiative for their 2022 concept store).

Upon entering the store, a customer scans a QR code which instantly launches a web app on their phone for that specific store, giving them all the benefits of the Assisted Selling App used by store associates, but on their own device. Here they can scan barcodes for product descriptions, see complementary products to purchase, check availability in other sizes, browse the endless aisle of products and build baskets to purchase.

What can we hope to see from Mercaux in the future?

We pride ourselves on being a single platform to digitise retail stores. We want to make it as quick and easy as possible for retailers to switch on and off solutions as and when they need them — that’s why we’ve built the platform in a modular way. The immediate future for us is to continually invest in our existing solutions, but also plug brand new solutions into the platform to further support our customers in their digital transformation journey.