Startup tech company Index has just taken another step toward leveling the playing field between online retail sites and brick-and-mortar stores.
Index, which was founded by members of Google’s (GOOG) Google Wallet team, just scored $7 million in early funding with a heavily Google connection. Namely, the funding was led by venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors — created by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt — as well as a few other VCs.
That money will go toward Index’s goal of bringing traditional retailers back to par with the likes of Amazon (AMZN).
Online retail sites have several advantages over big-box retail stores, but perhaps the biggest edge comes from online retailers’ ability to parse through huge amounts of customer data to customize the shopping experience. Websites can show you items you might be interested in based on your entire history of shopping. But when you walk into a Best Buy (BBY), for example, the employee who walks up to you while you’re browsing the movies section probably has no idea who you are or what kinds of things you like to buy.
That’s about to change.
Index software tracks customer activity and purchase history, allowing businesses to get to know their customers better. The software will allows businesses to combine information about online and in-person purchases.
But improving the business-to-customer relationship isn’t a one-way street. Consumers stand to benefit from the software, too.
InvestorPlace reached out to Index co-founder Marc Freed-Finnegan — a former executive at Google (GOOG) who served as the product lead for Google Wallet — who said this about what the technology could mean for consumers:
“We think that, just as e-commerce evolved from clumsy to seamless, the offline and cross channel customer experience must do the same. Consumers have an ever-increasing number of digital and real world entry points to engage with retail brands, but it’s frustrating when the process of discovery or buying stalls. We believe strongly that when customers opt-in — when they choose to share their preferences — it’s essential that retailers use these insights to personalize and enrich the shopping experience.”
While Index’s only active client is Cako, a San Francisco-based cupcake shop, the idea has plenty of potential, if the recent round of funding is any indication.
And if big retailers start biting, it could be a huge win for businesses and consumers.
Adam Benjamin is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.