In-store analytics goes from lab to shop

Editor’s note: This article is by IBM Research’s Retail Lead Sima Nadler.

From retailers and banks, to medical centers and transportation authorities, all businesses need to understand their customers better if they want to provide a more personalized and compelling experience. This means they need insight into their customers’ behavior patterns. Using the advanced analytics behind IBM Presence Zones, they’ll be able to understand people’s shopping and browsing patterns whether in the virtual (eCommerce) or physical world (brick and mortar stores).

Today's mobile-based GPS technologies provide information about our location by superimposing the location on a map or by providing geo-coordinates. But this doesn't help businesses understand the meaning of the location or identify if it's a department store, restaurant, airport, or the conference room of an office building. Presence Zones delivers this context and merges it with the customers’ eCommerce patterns – creating entirely new opportunities to offer personalized services, and helping businesses understand more about their customers’ habits.

Mapping the great indoors

Originally developed at IBM Research – Haifa, and now an IBM Smarter Commerce product, Presence Zones gives businesses an “indoors GPS” to identify the location and context of mobile users. The technology is installed in the location, similar to having Wifi at a café.  It identifies mobile devices on the premises and, after being granted permission, takes action. This could include offering individualized location-based promotions, providing personalized service, tracking foot traffic patterns for staff analysis, notifying employees of where they may be needed, and even adjusting store infrastructure like the cooling and heating.

Once the device owner has opted into the service (per business using Presence Zones), there's no need for any further action – it's all done automatically without them ever having to take the mobile device out of their pocket. When the system wants to interact with the customer, it does so via various channels such as text messages, mobile apps, or email. The retailer can send a reminder about other shopping deals even after the customer has left the physical location.

In the same way retailers track their website’s browsing patterns with sophisticated tools (such as IBM’s Coremetrics) for a granular view of their customers' online preferences, IBM Presence Zones also gives them their in-store customers’ past purchases and shopping patterns. With IBM Presence Zones it's now possible to get the same type of insight when people visit the physical location as when they visit the virtual one.

Soon, the idea that “buying local will beat online” may come true, thanks to solutions like Presence Zones.

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