BLUETOOTH Low Energy (BLE) BEACONS
shifting their focus from building revenue through opening new stores and rather on maximizing
revenue within each store. How are they doing it? By using their space efficiently.
This requires implementation of a wide range of marketing technologies that can track and
recognize customers using cameras, their smartphones, Bluetooth beacons, and by implementing
various Shopper Intelligence Analytics (SIA) technologies.
The Crux of the New Revolution
Ever since the inception of online retail stores and the rise of online tracking technologies, brick and
mortar retail stores have been sorely suffering from a dearth of marketing metrics for their
customer, and data points, and tracking technologies, and analytic software.
While online marketers continuously compute data to develop comprehensive customer behavior
reports and perform calculated experiments to increase customer engagement and boost revenues,
retail marketers had been using the traditional trial and error methods. Recently, three technologies
have come to the fore promising a holistic approach for analyzing customer behavior in retail stores.
- The use of surveillance cameras
- Location based marketing through smartphones
- Use of Bluetooth Low Energy beacons for pin pointing customer location
Watching Over Customer Behavior
identify and quantify their shopping habits, queuing times, and preferences for different products
and shopping space layouts. The technologies employed range from the simple to mapping heat
maps for the entire store.
The technology is already in place in various airports and shopping centers where it is being used to
monitor the queuing time of the customers, their preferences, disabilities, as well as gauging how
customers spend their time after going through security, and which shops they mostly visit at duty
free. Shopping malls routinely use it to improve layout of stores and aisles and make it easier for
customers to enjoy a good shopping experience.
How does it Work?
Surveillance cameras legally and routinely record footage of all the customers and visitors in the
store. Camera tracking for marketing simply utilizes the same apparatus to track customers who
frequent the store and keep record of customer behavior in a database. This information can include
information about personal disabilities, the products that they frequent, or found hard to find, etc.
When the customer visits the store again, the software matches the image with an existing
database. If a match is identified, the program can alert the staff with information about customer
preferences and last purchase orders.
Benefits for Retail Marketers
The facial recognition technology allows retailers to understand customer needs in 3D spaces and as
a result, create unique and tailor made experiences for the customers.
Tracking complete footages of customers has its limitations.
Marketers can use the data collected only in a certain number of ways without infringing on their customers’ privacy.
To overcome these limitations, retail marketers are employing different methods of tracking foot traffic and the time spent in store by their customers. One of them includes using cameras that over‐pixilate the image while counting the traffic in the store. Euclid and Shopper Trak
were the earliest developers, whose ideas were used to further the rise of this technology.
How Does it Work?
The customer’s movement is tracked using devices and sensors that count customers that walk into
the store as well as how quickly they walk out. The sensors have multiple lenses that over‐pixelate
the image and prevent identification of the customer. As a result, the data collected is purely
anonymous and aggregate.
Heat Seeking Cameras: Prism Labs and Heat Mapping
Online marketers have heard of CrazyEgg, the online heat mapping tool that lets webmasters and
marketers alike know the areas on their website that their visitors were drawn to and interacted
with the most. Now retail marketers are welcoming a real life heat mapping tool in their stores --
one that tracks the activity of customers in store and continuously creates a heat map of the store
shelves. This gives the store owners a new look at how customers find their store and how often
they interacted with the shelves, and which they simply left out.
A San Francisco startup, the Prism Labs are the pioneers who have developed a software technology
that allows marketers to easily map the behavior of their in‐store customers.
How Does it Work?
The technology uses surveillance footage for the store and uses it to track customer’s movements.
The imaging software continuously overlays image after image to create an aggregate of all the
customer whereabouts as well as the items they touched. The end result is shown as a heat map
with the busiest regions in the store shown in brighter color coding.
Furthermore, the software also offers an option for timeline that allows marketers to know the
activity levels in the store, the shopping hours that were the most lucrative, and how customers
navigated through the space. The best part about the technology is that the data collected is
anonymous — though the technology relies on video footage from the security cameras, the
aggregate data completely erases people from the video.
Benefits to Marketers
The technology is able to highlight anything in your retail space (tables, shelves, etc) and give them a
very clear read of what products people are picking up, which areas they frequent, and which they
are not. It gives them a clear idea of what is working in their layout and placement and what is not.
For retailers, this is a valuable tool for making decisions about product placement and floor layout.
Tracking Smartphones with MAC Addresses
Every smart device has a unique Media Access Control (MAC0 address. This address is used to
connect to Wi‐Fi routers available in shopping centers and retail stores. This is part of a larger field of
location based mobile marketing (LbM). The basic tracking premise in it is that it allows retail
marketers to easily track customer’s location inside their retail store, and like other technologies,
maintain a record of their preferences. But unlike other technologies, LbM allows marketers to send
out promotions and discounts tailored to the needs of their customer’s smartphones.
How Does it Work?
A smart phone, by design, is always searching for the strongest WiFi signals in the vicinity. When the
customer steps into the store, and if the store offers WiFi, the smart phone will identify itself by
sending out its MAC address to the WiFi router. It tech‐terms, it’s called a handshake. For marketers,
it’s time for creating a small account for the customer — and since they have to name it, the MAC
address serves as the account title.
With the help of specialized tracking devices, marketers can triangulate the smartphone’s position
and hence the customer.
Benefits to Marketers
What more can marketers want than knowing which area of the store their customer is in?
Since MAC address tracking also allows them to add customer preferences into their database,
they can easily match past transactions. Marketers can use that to send targeted promotions through mails, or on the app that a customer has downloaded for using the WiFi
Location based marketing has some limitations. LbM can track customers to within a few feet of the
shelf. Furthermore, tracking customers using LbM consumes a lot of energy and still lacks the
accuracy that the marketers now want.
iBeacons, or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), allows marketers to locate customer to within inches of
store shelves as well as track their foot traffic through the aisles. Originally, iBeacon was a brand
name coined by Apple for its micro‐location technology. Now a majority of new devices entering the
market, are all BLE compatible.
This includes, among others, Nokia Lumias, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10, etc.
How does it work
These BLE signals can be transmitted between compatible devices through the use of compatible as
well as third‐party hardware commonly known as beacons. This requires the customer to opt in to this
option, as it not only allows the marketers to pin point the exact location of the customer inside their store, but also to directly push relevant content to their devices.
Benefits for Marketers
iBeacons and BLE are providing marketers with a completely new marketing channel with which to
pinpoint the location of their customers and send out targeted and relevant content to their devices.
Why Marketers Are Excited
These new marketing technologies are keeping retail marketers awake at night — thinking of the
diverse ways they can use the data to expand their customer base, increase brand following, and
Because Now They Can Micro‐Manage Customer Behavior
The three customer tracking technologies (camera, BLE, and smart phone tracking) allow marketers
to understand what is attracting their customers to different parts of their store. Interior shopper
intelligence analytic (SIA) services marketers to know how quickly a customer walks out of the store,
while the combination of these with SIA allows marketers to analyze the patterns of the masses so
that the retailers can better serve customers.
Examples, can range from experimenting with the placement of a product based on the traffic that an area is receiving to changing the layout of an aisle and shelves to make it roomier and hence increase customer stay, etc. The ideas can easily be expanded throughout the store.
Because they Offer Important Metrics
Online retail stores have it easy — they simply have to manage a 2‐D environment and make it user
friendly. Brick and mortar retail stores, on the other hand, have to deal with other bludgeoning
questions. These include which areas are most frequented and why? What type of environment,
space layout, and shelf placement increases customer engagement? Did a messier environment
draw more customers to a specific area or a cleaner one? What about the number of items that
were on display: do customers prefer a minimalist layout or an ambient one? The tracking
technologies offer a diverse range of metrics that can be computed to give a holistic analysis of
Because they increase Customer Engagement
Customer engagement, the holy grail of all marketing, is a metric that brick and mortar retail stores
have been lagging in since the inception of online retail stores. For example, by counting the number
of customers that have entered the store, they can easily monitor the availability of staff to look
after their concerns.
It often happens that customers simply leave the store because there weren’t enough staff members
to serve them. As a result, retailers can aggregate the number of people that normally come to their
store and hence employ more staff members to serve these customers and prevent them from
leaving the store out of frustration for the lack of staffing.
Retail marketers have been slow on the uptake of in‐store analytics, but with the advent of multiple
technologies to track, locate, and engage customers inside the store marketers can now combine
them to create a holistic marketing strategy for their customers. It is obvious that customer concerns
will shape the way these technologies will be used, but there can be no doubt that retail marketers
are taking the bandwagon to in‐store analytics.