MWC 2017: Could proximity services be the future for retailers?
Picture the scene. You walk into a high-street store, and see a digital screen in front of you, offering you a 50% discount on your favorite T-shirt brand. Your friend walks up to the screen, and the promotion changes, now displaying a Buy One Get One Free offer on a jumper they were looking for. But this isn’t Minority Report, this type of technology could be coming to shops sooner than you think…
With smartphones already in the pockets of nearly 7 in 10 consumers across Europe, retailers are in a powerful position to interact more intimately with their target audience. Increasingly, they’re using their smartphones to compare products they see in the store to competitor products online. They’re snapping photos of the product to share with friends, comparing prices, reading reviews and ensuring they have everything they need to make an informed purchasing decision.
To grab customers’ attention during this crucial stage in the buying process and ensure they’re not lost to rivals, retailers are starting to explore proximity services in more depth, in a bid to interact with the individual from the moment they enter the store. As we head to MWC 2017 this week, here I explore some of the central themes that will be discussed on the show floor around how to engage with customers via proximity marketing services, and ensure they are not lost during the buying cycle.
Blurring the lines between the physical and digital store
Consumers want the same experience of the brand, regardless of which channel they’re using. At the same time, retailers are focused on omni-channel strategies to get closer to their new, digital-first customers and meet their evolving needs and expectations. Proximity marketing services can be used to push promotions directly to customers’ smartphones the minute they enter the store: “Welcome back Santi, we have a new line of sportswear we think you’d like on the first floor. 10% off introductory offer – claim today!” Of course, marketers must be mindful of getting the content and frequency of these messages right – too much and the customer will be put off from engaging further with the brand.
While beacon technology has been revolutionizing the retail space for the past few years,smart beacons are now starting to enter the market. This type of hardware is loaded with enough memory and processing power to push relevant promotions and content direct to consumers’ phones without the need for them to be connected to the internet. This type of technology could prove hugely beneficial for brands who want to push promotional videos to their customer base; videos that previously would have required individuals to have lots of bandwidth to download the material to their phones.
Improving operational efficiencies with proximity services
It’s not however, just retailers that could benefit from the use of smart beacons. In airports for instance, beacons could be used to count the number of people entering the bathrooms. Rather than having to clean the toilets every hour, when they may have been used just once or five hundred times, the cleaner could be directed to only clean the facilities after 100 people have used them. Not only would the cleaner be more efficient with their time, but also, customers would benefit from cleaner facilities.
While these types of services are already common in US malls, sports stadiums and information centres, the European market is at least two years behind. This is due to a combination of factors, such as technological advancement; but also an unwillingness from the market to adopt this type of service. To further progress, consumers across Europe must become more open to accepting this type of communication in exchange for an offer or promotion; and brands need to better recognize that by deploying these services, they can improve their customer engagement.
We’ll be demonstrating Worldline’s core capabilities in proximity service at MWC 2017 this week, in Hall 5, Stand 5I31 - https://www.mobileworldcongress.com/exhibitor/worldline/