Wojciech Stramski has been an active leader in several key business improvement opportunities throughout the EMEA region, bringing significant savings to the bottom line and concurrently increasing market share in a wide range of industries. Currently, Stramski is the Director of Portfolio of Kulczyk Investments, the largest family investment house in Poland with over 4 billion EUR of assets under management. He is a co-founder and investor of Lab4Motion Solutions, a company based in Poznan, Poland, and involved in image and video recognition technology and awarded the winner of the regional 2013 IBM SmartCamp Challenge. A true internal audit and enterprise risk expert, Stramski has over 15 years’ experience in both public and private auditing in companies including KPMG, Altria, Honeywell, and Kulczyk Tradex. He has also been a member of the Supervisory Board and member of the Audit Committee of several entities listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange.
We’ve heard and read a lot about the internet of things. How does image recognition fit into this trend and what is Lab4Motion working on in this regard?
Today’s consumers are living in an online and offline world. From a technological perspective, the online world is being continuously developed to allow for more precise analysis of consumer behavior within this environment to assess the interrelationship between consumer online behavior and shopping patterns. However the offline world, which is much larger in size and will remain such for many years to come, has, until recently, not been measured and analyzed effectively due to lack of efficient means. IoT is actually allowing for this to change. Companies can now analyze, in real time, consumer behavior in a physical retail environment and grasp the correlation between different external and internal initiatives on shopping behavior to draw precise conclusions about what works best in pushing sales.
Your website quotes a number of famous technology entrepreneurs including Mark Cuban and Steve Jobs. How does Lab4Motion view the customer and how do you provide your customers and partners with the competitive advantages these pioneers allude to in their quotes you’ve used?
At the end of the day, Lab4Motion views the end consumer as being the final customer of our solution. It is this consumer who is making FMCGs and retailers successful and our technology is developed with this in mind. If our customers cannot leverage our technology in a manner which gets them closer to their consumers and improve their shopping experience, we will know we failed. That is why we are always thinking about how to get our customers (the FMCGs and retailers) closer to the consumer and provide them with a better understanding of the consumer journey and shopping experience. This allows FMCGs and retailers to more effectively and efficiently approach the end consumer with offers for products which are relevant to them at all times.
Consumer psychology is quite complex and consumers are in a constant omnichannel state of mind. Our technology helps our customers fully bridge the information gap which they currently have in terms of the omnichannel customer perspective. We create an ecosystem in which our customers get the chance to observe, analyze, and understand the offline shopping journey through the eyes of the consumer and link this information to the online shopping journey.
Can you give us some ideas on how your technology can be leveraged in the consumer good retail space?
Sure, as an FMCG, you should always be looking for ways to improve your chances of converting on sales. You spend millions of dollars trying to understand the cause and effect of advertising, marketing campaigns, pricing, product launches, et cetera, on consumer decisions to see if you are doing the right thing. However, a majority of current methods used to assess whether these decisions are providing the proper value for money are imperfect because techniques used to collect information are based on a sample of the population, which is often unrepresentative of the entire population. In addition, the physical act of collecting information is often obstructive to the consumer’s natural behavior so the conclusions drawn are many times imperfect. Implementing a video analysis solution in a physical retail space presents an opportunity to obtain full population metrics in a completely non-obstructive means, respecting all rights to privacy of the consumer, from which you will be able to draw better informed decisions. This will have a full knock-on effect on your entire distribution model (consumers in one location may behave differently than consumers in a different location). You will understand consumer behavior in a more individualistic means as opposed to generalization. You will also be able to have more productive negotiations with the distributors and retailers in your value chain and assess whether the investment you are making for your products to be displayed on a particular shelf in a particular location is actually justified.
Imagine how much more effective merchandising visits will be when your merchandisers enter a particular store and have immediate access to full conversion metrics. Having access to information, such as the number of consumers who visited the location since their last visit (and further information such as gender, age group), lets them compare this information with the number of products that were sold during this period and establish the consumer conversion rate.
Next, they can check which specific initiatives were implemented during the period in terms of product placement, pricing communication, and POS material in the particular location and determine whether or not these initiatives have been successful. A/B testing can be run to verify whether the conclusion you are drawing is appropriate versus other locations where such initiatives may not have been implemented before you make a decision for a full blown roll out of a particular initiative in your network. All this is becoming possible to manage efficiently with solutions which combine image recognition, IoT and, communication. And this is the future of retail and consumer goods.
As a technology start-up what do you find to be your greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge is being able to balance between available capital and the appetite to develop solutions which fit your vision of where the world is going and bridging this vision with the current state of needs of our customers. All companies have different needs. Some are a bit more adventurous and willing to take the risk to leap frog their current state of technology to embark on a new journey, taking them closer to where many of their consumers already are. Others are a bit more conservative, waiting to see how different technologies interplay with each other and only apply solutions which become proven and established. History shows that companies who are quicker to adapt to change coming from technological evolution end up being ahead of their competitors and closer to their end customers. From a start-up perspective, being patient and understanding to these approaches is a key to success.
You have an extensive background in accounting and audit. Do you have any advice for our young entrepreneur readers?
Accounting is a heavily regulated field with rules that are established without much room to maneuver around. Creating a startup is exactly the opposite. In most instances you are actually leading the creation of completely new rules in a new field before you actually know that this is happening. Never be scared to follow your dreams and beliefs and work on introducing something completely game changing, even when others tell you that there are “rules” which cannot be broken.
Thank you Wojciech for taking the time to share your thoughts with us today.