Personalised Shopping Revolution

Technology Trends
By connecting location awareness, recommendation systems and loyalty programs we can provide solutions ensuring customers are eager to come back, be entertained and hopefully buy more products.

Gone are the days when you could march into your local grocery shop expecting a ready filled basket, assembled for you by your friendly shopkeeper, who has predicted exactly what you’ll need (and probably even why), and who also keeps you up to date on all the latest gossip in the street. 

It’s the age of Smartphones, Snapchat and Tinder, where every other person is submerged in their handheld reading the latest news on ‘Rihanna’s new secret lover’ or ‘who’s trending since last night’s X Factor’. You no longer know who your next door neighbour is and you definitely won’t be invited to your buddy’s birthday party via a card, but with a Facebook invite. The world has become very anonymous recently and it’s time that changed, starting with that shopkeeper down the street! That business got bought out and replaced with a Tesco local branch!! 

So can we come up with a few ideas to make things personal again? 

Imagine walking down a street when you get a notification, yet instead of another Farmville request, the electronics shop you’re walking right past is informing you that the Virtual Reality headset, that you were so anxious to get, is 20% off - right now, just for YOU! But what a bizarre coincidence this is - You were just walking past their branch and it was just the headset that you were monitoring on their website last Friday…

Welcome to the beacon based personalised shopping revolution! It’s those tiny matchbox sized devices, located somewhere in the shop, that have accounted for that notification popping up. Beacons are simply emitters of small packages of data, which can be read by any Bluetooth 4.0 device. Mobile applications are registered for that beacon’s specific UUID and are notified when in range (approx. 70m). The amazing thing about them is that a single coin sized battery will power them up for 2-3 years, so maintenance is not an issue. Just place it in a non-obstructed location, you’re good to go. Now any device in close range which is set to find the beacon will get the notification!

The problem with beacons is that they work in only one direction. They can emit a signal, but they will never find out that another device received it. It isn’t really connected to anything else either. However, all Bluetooth 4.0 smart devices are not only capable of receiving a packet, but also emitting one (without using more than 2% of their battery life). Now, that opens lots of possibilities  due to the 2 way communication allowing both sides to broadcast and receive information at the same time, making this technology a modern ‘walkie talkie’ of sorts, working only when devices are in close range.

The trick in delivering a personalised experience to the customer is to be able to interact based on their location, search history, likings, and perhaps even mood. To make sure no opportunity is missed, enabling this 2 way communication, means that shop keepers will be notified as soon as the client is close by.  This allows them to be ready to interact with them once they enter the shop, and supply relevant information, such as special offers or new product information that has been tailored to their past purchases or wish lists. Before the customer entered the store they may have been notified of their loyalty program information, points or what kind of discounts are available for them plus that complimentary coffee available only to them!

To make it easier to find that potential buyer, beacons (in sets of 3 or more), can be used to locate them precisely even when GPS signal is unavailable. Having more beacons allows you to provide targeted information, about exactly what the user can find around them, and which products are on special offer, and even allow them to call for assistance 

Now, you might agree that informing customers of possible promotions, is not the most exciting capability. However, by introducing some playfulness, and offering discounts or offers for small tasks, then shoppers will be flocking to your store in no time, especially if gamification becomes location aware. 

So what kind of ‘games’ are we talking about? Well, the sky is the limit!  It might be collecting points when close to your store (similar to the Pokemon GO concept), or completing an objective like trying on an item, which according to your ‘record’ would suit you perfectly, or would potentially be impossible to live without! But here’s where it get’s really interesting. If an entire airport duty free section, or shopping mall are beaconized, with multiple different shops using the same application, then businesses might cooperate, creating routes for a users to follow.

…By getting a drink at a certain coffee place, you will get 10% off on a novel in the book store! 

…If you like their page, while being in their shop, you will be entitled to a buy 1 get 1 free offer on trousers in that trendy new fashion shop on the second floor. The list goes on and on and is a win-win opportunity for everyone.

Todays Reality.

Similar campaigns have been launched all across the world from Carrefour in Romania to Regent Street in London and from fast food joints to pharmacies.  All of these campaigns have led to increased popularity and significantly boosted sales figures. By the end of 2020, an estimated 400 million beacons will be launched all across the retail industry making shopping faster, easier and tailored to each consumers pocket and liking. Beacons are a brilliant way to not only boost revenue, and delight customers. By connecting location awareness, recommendation systems and loyalty programs we can provide solutions ensuring customers are eager to come back, be entertained and hopefully buy more products.

Tim Walpole


Tim is a Mobility guru. He knows all there is to know about apps and the world of mobile.