Retail in Asia

In Shops

Taking Stock: Next in Philippine retail: Beacon-enabled stores

Before the end of this month, a supermarket chain in the Philippines will be introducing beacon-based indoor positioning technology for in-store shopping, the first in the country to deploy the technology enhance the experience of shoppers using mobile devices. By the first quarter of 2015, all next-gen retail stores of Globe Telecom will also be deploying beacons to aid the shopper journey.

The company responsible for bringing the technology to the country is Connexion, a newly minted venture among three leading digital players – Globe Digital Advertising, tech-based information marketing company In-Store Digital Display International (IDDI), and pure-play mobile marketing agency Mobext.

Emmanuel A. Soriano Jr., Chief Executive Officer and President, In-Store Digital Display International (IDDI), said the use of smartphones, apps and location services is already prevalent in the country.

The opportunity is to find a digital out of home advertising solution that can communicate with consumers with contextual messages, which means that whatever they receive on their mobiles are relevant to their exact location," he said.

The ideal scenario in the supermarket or grocery is that when a shopper is in a particular aisle such as the snack foods or the fruits and vegetable aisle, he or she should be able to receive messages about that category. Similarly, when a shopper is in a particular section of a department store, he or she should receive information about products in that section. This could be the ladies wear, men’s wear or the children’s section. This is made possible through the use of beacons deployed around the store that can transmit custom messages to mobile devices.

Beacons are a low-cost, battery-friendly hardware device that attach onto a wall or shelf in an aisle. Through the use of a low-energy Bluetooth wireless connection, beacons can send messages or prompts to smartphone users who are within a five-inch to 200 feet radius of the device.

What the partners have built is the use of beacons in-store and content specific to the user’s location, a management system and a mobile app called Ping, which can be downloaded from app stores.

The app provides users with relevant information such as news feeds on four categories – dining, shopping, health and beauty and grocery; ist of beacon-enabled stores near their location, and a rewards system wherein a shopper can earn "pings" every time he or she enters a store using beacons. The earned ‘pings’ can be used to redeem discounts or rewards.

In the grocery category, the app provides a grocery list function, which shoppers can use to list products they need to purchase. When the shopper is inside the store, messages specific to the items on the list can be delivered to their mobile device.

Soriano said that aside from supermarkets, storefronts of brands and department stores, the partners are also eyeing restaurants, malls. drug stores and commercial centers.

"We can also link up to other apps and have them beacon-enabled so that when the users go to our locations they would be able to benefit from the rewards and other (shopper) incentives," he said.

This early, the company is also eyeing the overseas market for the technology, leveraging on the fact that the beacon management system is cloud-based so it can be deployed anywhere.

"In fact, the company is forming a joint venture in New York. We are deploying (the technology) in Manhattan for restaurants," Soriano revealed.

On the business side, Soriano said the company is offering both advertisers and partner stores a system that incentivizes store visits because of the rewards component.

In an earlier news release, Bela Gupta D’Souza, Globe’s Mobile Advertising Head, cited that studies show that more than 95 percent of transactions worldwide are still made in physical venues. In addition, more than half of consumers visiting stores have smartphones, and that number is growing rapidly in the Philippines.

"It is not just that 95 percent of retail is still offline, but if you look at what advertisers are looking for, they are really looking to reach customers in their last mile of purchase," she said. "This is what the beacon technology offers – to help people become more aware of or more engaged with the brand in aid of their purchasing decisions."

Soriano said for advertisers it offers an opportunity for location marketing and because it is category specific and it would allow them to calibrate their ad spend and directly engage their target market.

With the substantial growth of Globe’s mobile data user base as wells the readiness of the network, the partners said the beacon-enabled stores will not only be found in Metro Manila but also in the provinces. The launch of the first beacon-enabled supermarket chain at the end of the month will see a hundred stores nationwide using the technology.

Globe Telecom has also announced earlier that it is expanding its LTE-TDD and LTE-FDD footprint in the Visayas and Mindanao, following the activation of its first site in Cebu City as part of an initiative to further expand the telecommunication provider’s mobile ultra-broadband infrastructure in central and southern provinces of the country.

Taking Stock is Retail in Asia’s fortnightly column dedicated to showcasing opinions from experts in the retail industry.