Retail in Asia

In Trends

Taking Stock: Locating and engaging the empowered consumer

Meeting the challenges of retailing today through presence-sensing and location-based tools

As you enter the store, your smartphone beeps. You noticed that you have received a personalised greeting from the store, with links to promotional items that are currently on your shopping list. You are also informed that the pair of jeans you were looking at online is now available in-store and you are invited to try one in your size. It is as if someone had read your mind and knew exactly what you needed and what may interest you.

This is the emerging scenario of the future shopping experience – a symbiotic relationship between environments, smart phones, wi-fi networks, presence-sensing and location-based tools. The future retail space will leverage advanced technology solutions to identify customers individually, anticipate their needs and offer them intelligent services. In a crowded retail landscape, connecting personally with customers will be the single biggest differentiator for retailers. 

Retailers have long relied on marketing campaigns that reach out to loosely categorised market segments, with no further customer differentiation within these broad categories. Enter the era data-driven marketing, where marketers have at their disposal sophisticated business analytics with built-in predictive algorithms to clearly define individual customers. Retailers of the future have the ability to influence a customer’s purchase path and ultimately turn browsing into buying. 

How presence-sensing and location-based tools turn "the store" into "my store"

In an April 2012 survey conducted by TNS about how people were using and interacting with mobile technology, around 12.5 percent of global respondents were willing to share their location in exchange for a deal or offer. At the same time, 33 percent expressed interest in receiving deals when they are near a store that they like. This presents a significant opportunity for retailers, as they seek to gather detailed intelligence on who their customers are and how they experience their shopping environment.

The proliferation of constantly connected handheld devices is enabling the elevation of the shopping experience to unprecedented levels by personalising three key environments – the offer, the store and the area of interest. Today, when a customer is inundated with mass marketing on different levels and channels, a smart phone provides an ideal platform to connect in a personal way. Armed with detailed customer insights, retailers can now dynamically map the store experience to specific and personalised preferences, so that the same environment can be experienced differently by individual customers. 

Fundamentally, presence sensing and location-based tools create a context for the customer and provide a means for retailers to turn "the store" into "my store". Ubiquitous Wi-Fi networks help make location-based tools readily available, enabling retailers to detect, analyse and act on location information from a Wi-Fi device. This information can also be fed into the customer relationship management system for a seamless customer engagement from the time they enter the store to the time they check-out their purchases. 

In addition to identifying customers personally, and offering the right products based on their preferences, retailers can identify and reward loyal customers with special promotions, thus making them feel special and more likely to keep coming back. Location-based tools can also route customer service requests from a smartphone to the most appropriate sales associate based on their skill set and location in the store, further optimising the customer’s shopping experience.   

The intelligent mall

The broader application of presence sensing and location-based tools brings about what can be termed as the intelligent mall, where the entire outing is personalised.

Location-based presence-sensing across the Wi-Fi network in the environment, combined with data captured from customers’ mobile devices, can generate comprehensive insights into specific customer behaviour and preferences. These include the duration of the store visit, number of visits, total customers in the mall, popular spaces based on time of day and demographic profiles. This intelligence helps mall owners make key decisions such as the tenant mix and mall layout.  

Applications can also identify a consumer within a certain radius surrounding the mall, positioning any relevant tenant to consumers individually and making multiple one-to-one personalised offers. Instead of just a single store, consumers can now be alerted to multiple offers from several stores, personalising the entire mall experience to his or her individual preference.   

This concept can also be extended to other public establishments, such as theme parks, restaurants, hotels and other places of interest. One unique example is the use of such an application at the zoo, where a family of four can be alerted to different show times, special enclosures and souvenir stores based on their known preferences or general profile. This effectively provides a personal navigation tool, which in turn maximises their experience from the outing. 

Differentiating and winning in the future

Success for a retailer will be determined by his ability to differentiate from the competition. Essentially, a successful retail operation balances the interests of three stakeholders – the vendor (represented by the product), the retailer (represented by the store layout, display and sales associates) and the consumers. The underlying connect between these three stakeholders is technology.

The future belongs to the retailers that implement and harness the best tools and flexible ownership models to create value-based, one-on-one relationships with shoppers and to ensure that customers have a seamless, consistent experience, whether in-store, online or through a mobile device.  

The retail environment of the future will take the complexity out of converged technology, allowing multiple systems to talk to one another and exchange only the important data needed to make intelligent, real-time decisions. With reduced complexity, and applications that are simple to deploy, manage and evolve, retailers can spend more time creating experiences that connect with shoppers and keep them coming back.


Anand Mehta is the Business Development Director, Retail, APAC for Motorola Solution.

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

(Source: Anand Mehta, Business Development Director, Retail, APAC, Motorola Solutions)