Remember in the movie “Minority Report” when Tom Cruise’s character, John Anderton, was running away from the pre-crime police unit for a crime he was going to commit? He was running through a mall and was greeted by a number of personalized ads inviting him to drive a Lexus, have a Guinness and use his American Express card. Later in the movie, after swapping out his eyeballs, he was in the Gap and was asked if Mr. Yakamoto was enjoying his new clothes.
One could watch that movie and think that kind of advertising is either impossible or way out in the future. But maybe we’re not as far away from that as one might think. Personalized services are truly right around the corner, although it’s more likely your mobile phone will be the trigger for personalized services, not your eyeball. The technology is there to do this today. The trick is for the retailer to pull it all together.
One vendor trying to make the process of bringing these types of personalized services to life in retail is Aerohive. Earlier this month, the company launched a “Personalized Engagement Platform” designed to help retailers deploy new applications. These mobile applications can change the way retailers interact with customers, driving up loyalty and ultimately getting customers to spend more in the store because the store has a better idea of what a customer wants.
I recently got back from Paris, and while there my beautiful wife Christine, I visited a small boutique in “La Marais.” One of the sales agents there spent about an hour with my wife trying on different clothes, pulling inventory off racks in the back, finding items that were on sale, all leading to a nice-sized purchase. While this was nice, it certainly wasn’t scalable, as the person helping my wife wasn’t available to help anyone else in the store. Had the store been busier, either my wife would have received lesser service, leading to a smaller sale, or other customers would have had to suffer.
What if there was an app for this use case? Once she found a few items she liked, she could look at an app that’s able to show other inventory that would match what she already selected. She could then use the app to signal someone to bring the inventory to the changing area or even tell her where to find it on the rack. The app could also push her a coupon when we walked in the door or alert her to where she could find some special sale merchandise.
Building this type of infrastructure becomes increasingly important for the brick-and-mortar retailer, as many consumers are now turning to the likes of Amazon.com or Overstock.com. Of course, shopping on Amazon doesn’t have the same charm as wandering around Paris, but it does have a level of personalization and price competitiveness that often beats the charm. Brick-and-mortar retailers need to change customer experience to continue to compete effectively with online retailers.
However, while it’s easy to say it’s important to build personalized services, it’s not easy for the typical retailer, especially smaller ones with limited IT staff to pull all the stuff together to make this work. Aerohive’s Personalized Engagement Platform packages up its own products alongside some from some strategic partners to remove much of the complexity around creating personalized services.
One of the components of the solution is, of course, Wi-Fi. Until we’re able to scan people’s eyes like in Minority Report, a secure, robust wireless network is the foundation to personalized services. The wireless network is the mechanism for the retailer to personalize the customer visit. Greet repeat customers by name, offer discounts, push sale items and upsell other products. Obviously, customers would have to “opt in” to such a model, but from the research I’ve done, I can tell you that about two-thirds of customers would accept coupons being pushed if they were relevant. No one needs more spam, but when offered something meaningful, customers would eagerly opt in.
The wireless network can do more than interact with customers as well. It can be used to track inventory and optimize in-store processes. Let’s say a number of customers were queued up at a certain register, while others had fewer people. The store could redeploy people to that register to decrease the load, getting customers through check out faster.
Another member of the solution is AirWatch, which provides the mobile management and on-boarding capabilities. Providing a secure environment is key if customers are to trust the retailer to hold personal information. Also, Euclid is used for retail analytics. Aerohive provides a tremendous amount of data from the network, but Euclid can take this data and combine it with the information it collects to increase sales and optimize in-store operations. Aerohive has taken a platform approach and, over time, will bring more partners into the fold.
As John Anderton pointed out several times in Minority Report, “everyone runs,” but with the right personalization, perhaps everyone will be running back to their favorite retailer because of the great experience they had last time.