A new, UK-based Beacon technology company called Iconeme has figured out an innovative way to enable store mannequins to transmit information to passers’ by about the clothing they’re modeling. It works through an app that users download, and something called a VMBeacon device that is installed on the mannequin, and the information transmitted by the beacon is stored in the cloud, so it can be accessed remotely. When users with the app are within 100 meters of the VMBeacon, they get an alert about the clothes on the mannequin, in addition to prices, direct purchase links, and information about the store the item is in. As well, they can share the look via social networks, or save it for later. The device itself has a battery life of up to three years, and because the content can be changed remotely, it’s maintenance-free. It represents one of the first – but most definitely not the last – introduction of beacons into the retail space to call consumers to action and increase sales.
Check out SAP’s futuristic vending machine in the video below, on display at Mobile World Congress. It slickly implements pretty much every innovative technology you could ask for including an iBeacon, NFC reader, facial detection (powered by Intel), social media integration and more.
SAP envisions people signing up for loyalty programs tied to a network of these machines, allowing you to earn rewards, pull up your favorite selections on any device, and even buy and send gifts to friends in the program directly from the machine. I was given $10 an a free account, and as you can see from the video the machine addressed me by name when I swiped in via NFC. If were using an iPhone, the iBeacon could push me an offer or message once I was withing range.
There are about 1,000 of these vending machines in the US now. SAP is also improving the supply chain side of the equation but collecting data on which sodas are most popular on each individual machine to ensure that companies don’t miss out on sales by running out of product, or carrying the wrong product. Customers can even request that new beverages be added to the machine in the future if they don’t see what they want.
Sign me up.
While MWC remains an Apple-free zone, this year’s show features a plethora of retail beacon technologies looking to capitalize on Apple’s recent iBeacon launch. Japan’s DNP (Dai Nippon Printing Co) is displaying a templatized white label app solution for retailers looking to integrate iBeacons into the in-store experience.
DNP says the first iteration of its platform is aimed at the Japanese market where consumers prefer an emotional connection with a brand. Coming into proximity with the iBeacon triggers a question on your phone simply asking how you’re doing and an offer to send someone to help with anything you need. Coupons are also readily integrated into the platform for stores looking to make offers available to consumers.
DNP’s solutions on display this year are split 50 /50 between NFC and beacon technology, a telling sign of the current state of the industry. Having had more time to develop for the NFC world, their offerings there include quantified self integrations with hardware partners like Triplesense — an instore skincare device and sales aid that measures how dry your skin is. Once the analysis is complete, sales associates tap their phones against the device to get skin care product suggestions for the consumer.
Apple is flipping the switch on its iBeacon Bluetooth Low Energy sensors across its 254 US stores today. It’s the largest deployment of the technology into stores, and it will only work if you have the Apple Store app and have given it permission to track you. When you walk into the store, the app will go into “In-Store mode,” and it will let you know about deals in the areas around you. Ultimately, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before; we’ll just have to wait and see how consumers react, and whether the technology actually drives sales. For now, it’s still a shiny toy.
Macy’s is the first major retailer to begin testing Apple’s new iBeacon technology in-store. Macy’s will use retail app Shopkick as a form of third-party integration, and users will receive a notification through this app when they walk into Macy’s Herald Square or Macy’s Union Square, San Francisco. The notification directs users right into Shopkick’s app, which will alert them to deals and remind them about product sales they might be interested in. As of yet, the trial is limited to pinging phones upon entrance to the store, but in the future it could work on a much more targeted basis. If customers who use the service are more readily converted into purchasers, expect to see Macy’s, and many other retail stores, run with the new technology.
To mark the release of the new iPhones – and in part to demonstrate a proof-of-concept – Apple retail stores will implement iBeacon customer tracking to reportedly enhance the shopping experience for customers. iBeacon is similar to GPS, but it works indoors and it can be used to trigger certain actions on iPhones that are in proximity to iBeacon sensors. The plan is for iBeacon to work in conjunction with the Apple Store app and offer customers deals and location-based information. It’s an important development for the technology, one that marketers and consumers alike should keep a close eye on; it could determine brick-and-mortar interactive behavior for the forseable future.
The New York Mets have entered a trial utilizing Apple’s iBeacon indoor mapping feature to customize the At The Ballpark app for everybody that walks into the stadium. They are looking to customize the app based on where you are within the stadium, turning the ballpark into an interactive playground of sorts. The idea is to create a series of “micro-locations” within the stadium to trigger different experiences for the fans as they work their way through to their seats, or to get beverages and food between innings. Because iBeacon is customizable, each stadium would feature different experiences, intertwined with different brands. It’s a truly powerful technology that is just being put to the test; this feature could truly enhance venues of all stripes for consumers who aren’t intense fans or just want to experience the venue itself.