Retail Tech M&A #2: Why Walmart and other retailers are buying artificial intelligence startups

artificialintelligence

Retailers are increasingly using artificial intelligence to manage their stores and monitor shopping behavior and offer better experiences, as we discover in the second installment of Mergers & Acquistions’ 7-part series, Retail Tech M&A. Artificial intelligence applications predict customers’ needs. Here's our look at AI:

Walmart
Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is boosting its tech arsenal through acquisitions. Earlier in 2019, the company acquired Israel-based Aspectiva. Aspectiva’s AI analyzes product reviews and combines that analysis with the individual shopper’s browsing behavior to make product suggestions to customers both online and in stores. Consumers rely on product reviews from their peers to help them make purchasing decisions, and retailers are looking for ways to make it fast and easy for customers to search for reviews to provide personalized shopping experiences.

“Aspectiva has developed incredibly sophisticated machine-learning techniques and natural language processing capabilities, both of which are areas we believe will have profound impact on how customers will shop in the future,” Walmart said in a press release.

McDonald's
McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) is using AI to lure customers. The restaurant chain acquired a 10 percent stake in app developer Plexure. The investment will support Plexure’s growth while giving McDonald’s greater access to technology to help with customer targeting. Plexure already powers McDonald’s global app in 48 countries. Plexure’s software allows companies to engage with consumers on their mobile devices, using offers, loyalty programs and mobile ordering to encourage them to order more often. The deal is McDonald’s first investment in a mobile app vendor. Plexure has agreed not to work with certain rivals of McDonald’s.

Amperity
Amperity, an artificial intelligence-powered customer data management developer, is buying consumer data analytics firm Custora. Amperity, which is backed by Tiger Global Management and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), uses artificial intelligence to give businesses a 360-degree view of what customers are buying, what they want and how to reach them. Custora offers analytics to retailers. J. Crew, Kenneth Cole and Lucky Brand are some brands that previously used Custora.

“We started Amperity to give brands the data and power needed to unleash their best ideas and unlock tremendous value for the consumer – our mission is singularly focused on helping people use data to serve the customer,” says Amperity CEO Kabir Shahani.

Amazon
Retailers are using M&A to build up their e-commerce channels to compete with Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN). “It’s not just Amazon. It’s the whole world of direct-to-consumer,” says Cathy Leonhardt, a managing director at PJ Solomon investment bank. “Technology is a big piece of it. Retailers are making fundamental changes to their business. You need to know where your inventory is and be transparent to your customers.”

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, all eyes are on the retail industry, which is undergoing transformational changes. Mergers & Acquisitions' series examines the impact of 7 technologies on M&A in the retail sector. Read the whole series:

Retail Tech M&A #1: Nike, McDonald's, PayPal, add customization, IoT
Retail Tech M&A #2: Why Walmart and other retailers are buying artificial intelligence startups
Retail Tech M&A #3: Amazon leads race to build fulfillment centers
Retail Tech M&A #4: Do robots fill orders faster?
Retail Tech M&A #5: Voice recognition gives retailers more ways to communicate
Retail Tech M&A #6: Data improves customer service
Retail Tech M&A #7: Demand for convenience drives growth in mobile ordering

We'll continue watching how these technologies and trends play out in the M&A in the new year.

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