I attended a retail innovation forum recently, and the topic-du-jour in many conversations was Apple’s iBeacon technology. This offers proximity-aware functionality that could radically change the game in the physical retail world, finally offering a context aware solution to make real the notion of “you are here, and you are important”. Word around Silicon Valley this week is that Google also wants a piece of the action, and is gearing up to go big with Google Nearby. To which Apple has raised the ante by pushing hard on the testing of mapping inside large buildings like offices and stores.
The stakes could hardly be higher. Volumes have been written about the problems physical retailers are having in keeping shoppers inside their stores. These types of proximity-aware technologies are one part of the solution. Here at the Center for the Future of Work, we have often rhetorically asked the question that when a shopper walks into a store, do you judge him by his appearance, or by his Code Halo? In other words, how do you know when a platinum-level, big spending, “Cool Customer” has just walked in?
In that light, it makes the cookie-driven world of attracting, maintaining, augmenting and expanding the spending habits of online shoppers seem “easy”. You just finished watching “Game of Thrones” season 2 – like a rat to a feeder bar, click here to buy season 3 (only $38.99 on Amazon!). Done.
While part of this is knowing where the customer is at the precise time of interaction, a huge part of the equation is analytics and meaning-making wrapped around these shoppers, in aggregate. At the self-same retail innovation forum I noted above, one of the panelists was San Francisco-based Prism Skylabs – a tech company that retrofits existing security camera infrastructure to understand traffic patterns, in aggregate within retail store space (commercial real estate for which the same retailers spend beaucoup bucks on overhead).
Moreover, stores like Anthropologie put huge focus into their merchandising displays – or “vignettes” in Anthrologie-parlance – and seek to understand how customers interact with them. . So what if you could effectively “mash-up” the patterns of a Prism Skylab, and the proximity based signal of an iBeacon and know – daily – where the top 10 percent, by spending, of your customers gravitated, lingered, and subsequently spent? The Top 5 percent? Or the Top 1%? Powerful stuff indeed – and doubtlessly where the industry is headed in the very near future.