Too often we spend our time talking about digital experiences like they are completely separate from physical customer experiences. Yes, we like to shop online, but most of us like to walk through the mall once in a while too.
Bridging the Physical with the Virtual
Here's the deal: most people do both right? Shop online and shop in the brick and mortar physical world. So it makes sense that these two ways to find information converge. This is what Siteworx, a design agency and system integrator, has been doing with its Concierge solution, enhancing the retail experience by using that smartphone nestled in your side pocket.
Proximity based Promotion
Siteworx CEO, Tim McLaughlin, knows a lot about mobile technology and how to leverage it for customer experience. He explained to me how Bluetooth Low Energy (or Blue Tooth Smart) — aka BLE — has taken the idea of proximity based promotion to a new level.
BLE, introduced with Bluetooth 4, is a low bandwidth protocol that doesn't consume a lot of battery (unlike its predecessor). It transmits low band information over long distances from about 3-500 feet. BLE is built into Apple devices after the iPhone 4S, including iPads and iPods, and although it is available in Samsung Galaxy (3 and 4) hardware, it's not supported by the Android operating system.
This BLE device is about the size of a US half dollar, and it includes a watch battery (which you don't have to replace for 1-2 years). The chip itself is really cheap and according to McLaughlin you can buy complete prototypes for about US$ 20 right now. McLaughlin mentioned a few ways this chip could be used, including the iWatch and the iBeacon. For those who don't know what iBeacon is, it is available in iOS7 and uses BLE to detect where you are located (i.e if you are standing in front of a fridge in Sears or next to a specific display stand).
This technology, says McLaughlin can support sales by sharing additional information, rebates and deals, or by simply tracking data (assuming permission is granted). He believes that this technology is helping to further converge the physical and the virtual, and that when tied into asset management, content management and commerce systems, it offers all kinds of possibilities.
Where Concierge Fits In
Siteworx built Concierge to help brands manage content and related assets for things like promotions and product information without giving sales people actual devices (i.e iPads, etc..) that have the information. Using a customer's own mobile device, a mobile application can directly receive and display high resolution images and other information (all of which is tied into content management and commerce systems) based on what they are looking at in a physical store.
This technology is being used not only in retail stores, but with mall owners and operators (so it works on a larger scales across retail stores) and in auto dealerships. The idea is that Concierge does not get rid of the salesperson (unless they are useless), but instead allows that salesperson to focus on value-added services that can help sell the product.
Concierge is not a product you buy and implement. Siteworx's uses it as part of an engagement. It's a prototype that must be further customized and integrated with a customer's backend. It's like a "starting kit", but McLaughlin didn't really like that term.
McLaughlin is seeing some product companies trying to do the same thing, but he doesn't see this as a standalone product. This capability is more a feature than it is a product. The cost of this capability isn't around the hardware itself, it's around the customization and integration to the customer's existing technology base.
Why Focus on Apple?
This technology does focus on Apple's devices, but according to McLaughlin, online purchasing power is over 50% for the iPhone alone. McLaughlin's hypotheses is that Apple users have higher purchasing power because they have more disposable income (this relates to the costs of iPhones vs Android phones). So while Concierge does support a smaller market (Apple iPhone makes up 30% of the smartphone market), it is the market that is most likely to buy.
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