How many apps do you have on your phone? Hakeem James bets your device is full, but when it comes to your favorite places to eat, their technology hasn’t made a difference.
But, according to James, these apps are often how restaurants know their customers today, including through promotions and other loyalty programs.
And outside of, say, the Chick-fil-As and Starbucks of the world, James says few people are successful in using this method to recognize what makes their customers hungry for more.
This was the generation of CustomerX.i, a Dallas-based data marketing automation startup that James founded in 2019. Although only a few years old, the startup quickly grew from a Exclusive support for local restaurants to a leading data platform that has captured some of QSR’s biggest brands as customers and caught the attention of Google and Microsoft.
It starts with the customer
James was working in the enterprise coupon space when he had a vision to take the “know your customer” technology that allows big box retailers to dominate the shared wallet space and bring it to the industry. of restoration.
Similar companies, he says, have tried to “move and lift” retail solutions and place them in restaurants. He wanted to be intentional, understand exactly what problems these restaurants were trying to solve, and then add intentional value with personalized technology.
“We’re committed to bringing our solution specifically to restaurants — and that’s really what makes us unique,” he told Dallas Innovates. “People have tried to create solutions that are suitable for retail and bring them to restaurants saying ‘make it work’.
“We managed to bridge that, bringing simplicity to the side of complexity.”
CustomerX.i gives restaurants a 360-degree customer view so they can better understand and ultimately engage the regular foodies who walk through their doors, order online, and keep coming back for more.
The startup’s dashboard and data ingestion tool, CX.iQ, enables physical stores to generate target audiences, find new customers, better understand existing customers across all channels, and automate better customer experience and business growth.
The intent is to connect all data touchpoints, from online login to in-person communication, to capture a complete and unified representation of customer activity. Technology shows what motivates customers, allowing restaurants to encourage them to do more, buy more, and bring more friends with them.
For example: if a restaurant wants to introduce a new specialty drink, CustomerX.i can tell them who has purchased a similar item in the past and what time of day they usually do so.
According to James, this applies to QSRs (quick service restaurants), fast food businesses, small and medium businesses and even mom and pop stores.
He thinks the differentiator of CustomerX.i is that it has stayed true to its messaging since its inception: data should be accessible to any restaurant, anywhere, regardless of size or financial situation.
“We help them recognize over 80% of their customers,” says the CEO. “Our capability is to bring what we consider to be the leading platform for ‘know your customer’ technology to the restaurant industry, helping them make better customer-centric decisions.”
Google and Microsoft team up
Becoming a future industry pioneer came with the support of two of the biggest names in tech: Google and Microsoft.
In September, James was one of four Dallas-area companies chosen for the second cohort of the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, a $10 million initiative designed to boost entrepreneurs who are building big businesses but are often deprived of access to the financing that is essential to their success.
CustomerX.i used the funding for expansion and increased capacity. It was also able to offer products to restaurants that needed them on a freemium basis to accelerate.
Around the same time, he was accepted into the Microsoft for Startups program. He was able to work with the
The Microsoft Dynamics team, which has extensive experience with large point-of-sale systems, to iterate on the usability side of the product.
“Working with partners like Microsoft and Google has helped us keep our costs very low so we can then pass those savings on to our customers,” says James. “We are offering something that previously would only have been available at a very high price to larger restaurants.
“Both shared the vision, separately, of being able to see how they could add value to who we are today.”
Why the restaurants?
Focusing on a specific target base was a driving factor in James’ goal with CustomerX.i. He thinks restaurants have traditionally been overlooked when it comes to having the latest next-gen technology to solve problems.
“It’s an industry with very tight margins; this is an industry that was not previously a leader in adapting technology,” he says. “So no one has really adapted anything to them.”
Throughout CustomerX.i’s startup journey, most restaurants using technology have been smaller, hole-in-the-wall places. This instilled in James the desire to treat them with the same level of emotion and service that they offer their own customers.
He says CustomerX.i takes a “white glove approach” to the mass market. He and his team work to solve the individual needs of their customers on a large scale.
“The opportunity we saw was really to add personalization and attention to an industry that we felt deserved it the most,” he says. “Who isn’t passionate about food? Food is inherently personal.
Having this vision meant being based somewhere ready for the growth of CustomerX.i. Dallas made sense in the world, James, an Ohio transplant, said: It’s “a one-stop center for people who really understand the restaurant industry.”
So far, he has been able to become an 18-person team in the region. Half joined the startup from retail and have worked on the front lines for some of the biggest names, while the other have a background in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
It’s what James calls the “perfect marriage” of retail technology and a deep understanding of restaurant issues and operations.
“We’re able to take this technology that’s really heavy and hard to duplicate and deliver it consistently,” he says. “Solving customer-side issues for restaurants means truly understanding their issues – it’s the best of both worlds with the team we’ve assembled.”
While most restaurant and hospitality-focused businesses took a hit when COVID-19 began to take its toll, James says it was the perfect time for CustomerX.i to do what it was. .
It was in 2020 that the startup experienced its own explosion.
“There was a need to better understand the customer,” says James. Since then, CustomerX.i has been able to do a widespread transformation in places that would otherwise have been forced to shake.
James is currently in the process of fundraising and an announcement is expected this year. It is also looking to launch additional product features, attract more key restaurants and continue on the path to being the leader in “know your customer” technology.
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