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Google’s Eric Schmidt Invests in Retail Tech

The retail software company, called Index, aims to bring the personalization and data measurement of e-commerce to the brick-and-mortar world.

Innovation Endeavors, the venture capital fund founded by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, is the lead investor in a new retail software company that aims to bring the personalization and data measurement of e-commerce to the brick-and-mortar world. San Francisco-based Index will reveal today the $7 million Series A round of funding.

This story first appeared in the November 19, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Also participating is Khosla Ventures, the investment vehicle for Vinod Khosla, the cofounder and former chairman and chief executive officer of Sun Microsystems, along with Alberta Investment Management Corp. and 819 Capital.

Index was cofounded by Marc Freed-Finnegan and Jonathan Wall, former colleagues at Google. Wall was a cofounder of Google Wallet and the technical lead for the Google File System and Freed-Finnegan was the product lead for Google Wallet.

Index is a platform designed to help retailers identify and track customer behavior both in-store and online, enabling tailored marketing and personalized service across all channels. The software is overlaid directly onto a retailer’s existing point of sale systems, linking in-store data to a customer’s Web, mobile and social media activity for a unified, holistic experience.

“The Index team is uniquely positioned to help retailers measure and improve their marketing impact,” said Schmidt. “Google Wallet was an early beneficiary of the founders’ technical know-how and critical execution skills. Now other retailers can benefit, too.”

Once a customer opts in to the Index database, the software can deliver customized promotions via e-mail or give store employees real-time information on a consumer’s preferences and purchase history, via a mobile app. Using GPS and tablet devices, a sales clerk could automatically pull up personalized profiles of customers as they enter a store — and then recommend a pair of sunglasses to a customer who had recently bought a swimsuit, for example.

“Index gives brick-and-mortar retailers an Amazon-like toolbox for managing customer data and relationships,” said Khosla.

Giving physical stores some of the same data advantages that e-commerce sites hold is becoming an important area of focus for omnichannel retailers. In August, eBay introduced a tablet-based app called the Retail Associate Platform that allows retailers to create detailed profiles on customers using data from both online and in-store activity.

Index’s first active client is Cako, a boutique cupcake maker with seven retail locations in San Francisco and San Jose. Going forward, Index is going after larger retail chains, as its software is an enterprise-level solution built to scale. “We are aiming for retailers that have the sophistication to fully leverage these tools,” explained Freed-Finnegan.