Pi Labs backs Placense to assist high street recovery

Pi Labs has backed location intelligence provider Placense as the startup, which has now raised $5m in total, seeks to support retailers by leading a post-Covid high street recovery.

In its first investment into an Israeli business, Pi Labs said Placense’s product is having a “profound impact” on retail recovery and investment strategies.

The startup provides retailers with data about how consumers engage with retail environments. The tool uses machine learning to turn data from millions of mobile devices into anonymised location analysis, which can be used to predict consumer behaviour.

For example, Placense, which counts Cushman & Wakefield among its clients, offers businesses data sets about customers’ journeys, catchment, demographics, visit frequency, loyalty, dwell time and popular places where people go.

This level of data, the firm said, has long been available to those working in e-commerce, but not to retailers with physical locations.

Hugo Silva, investment manager of Pi Labs, said: “Identifying a real pain point in the industry, Placense has developed a data-led solution, which is having a profound impact on both retail recovery and wider portfolio investment strategies.

“The right data can be hugely valuable for businesses especially as they look to navigate out of the ongoing pandemic. Our research into the future of retail was a catalyst for our investment into Placense as we see data playing an important role in leading a high street recovery.”

Given Europe’s stringent regulations around data protection, Placense emphasises that its data collection and management is GDPR-compliant. The information it shares with its clients has to be both highly granular but also anonymised to ensure no personally identifiable data is at risk.

Dan Gildoni, CEO and co-founder of Placense, said: “Our product is putting the power back into the hands of the real estate industry, to support better, more informed, faster decision-making. The retail industry, which has faced unprecedented upheaval, is harnessing the data and insight we can provide to help its re-imagining and recovery.

“With privacy and compliance at the heart of our business, we have the ability to analyse any location to securely offer valuable data to occupiers, asset managers, developers and brokers that they were previously unable to obtain. We look forward to working with Pi Labs, leveraging their ecosystem, as we scale our business and expand across Europe at this critical time for the real estate industry.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has exasperated problems for high streets across the world. In the UK, in-store retail sales were down 7.6% in December compared to pre-lockdown levels, according to the the Office for National Statistics. At the same time, online retail sales were up 53.8%.

Across the EU, retail trade fell 20% between February and April 2020, with especially severe declines in Spain and Italy, down 33%.

As the world slowly begins to reopen, high street businesses will need to ensure they meet customers’ needs, demands and habits. As Pi Labs argued, better access to data can help fuel that recovery.

Pi Labs’ investment will enable Placense to grow its engineering team as it develops the product and expands into new areas across Europe. Pi Labs’ portfolio of investments now stands at more than 50 proptech firms in the UK and Europe.

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