Instead, Apple has lead the way on an alternative, beacon technology, which uses small wireless sensors equipped with Bluetooth low energy (BLE) that can detect iPhones in store.
But it’s still not clear which technology will be the winner in helping retailers combat the competitive threat to their business model. What is clear is that consumers today have a PC in their pocket- a smartphone—and more than half of them use that device to research and compare prices while standing in a bricks-and-mortar store.
What retailers need are technologies that help them transform a retail store experience into something as convenient and seamless for the consumer as a visit to Amazon. They should allow them to receive timely offers or make quick payments for example—but also providing retailers with as much customer information as an online visit.
Any technology that is going to succeed must meet the following criteria:
At this point, no one technology out there exists that satisfies all these requirements. That’s why I think that for the near future, the answer is for retailers to use a mix of different technologies to achieve results. It may not sound sexy, but one of the simplest technologies out there today, already installed, is an infrasound sensor, which is part of a store’s existing hi fi system.
If you upload a sound over this system, it will identify phones within the store that have the store app installed in them. Used alone, it’s not terribly helpful. But if you then cross this information with data collected from the store’s WiFi system and phones using Bluetooth, you can gather more specific information on unique users.
Crossing different sources of data and analyzing enables businesses to build data about consumer intentions while within the store, opening up a host of possibilities.
The physical world and the digital world are merging and retailers need to respond in kind. It will be exciting to watch over the next few years as this unfolds.