Using Beacons, Roximity Helps Brick-And-Mortar Retailers Strike Back

Roximity logoBuying stuff online is many things – convenient, less crowded, sometimes less expensive – but one thing it is not, at least for me, is fun. Rather, it tends to be a hunting expedition. Sites have something I want. I search. I might buy.

The experience of wandering the aisles, on the other hand, can be fun. As anyone who has found himself compelled to buy a grocery store donut because of the smell of warm sugariness wafting through the parking lot can attest, stores can stimulate every sense. There are environments to explore and other people to engage.

Now imagine if brick and mortar stores made it a lot easier for me to become a hunter but preserved the things that make it fun. What if they made it less expensive? What if you could “check out” just as quickly at an Abercrombie as you can at Amazon?

Brick and mortar stores are working on all these things. Helping them are companies such as Roximity. Alex Finkel, who I envy for possessing one of the only one-word job titles I’ve ever seen (“Partnerships”), shares a bit about how Roximity is helping brick and mortar strike back against the incursions e-commerce has made over the last 15 years.

Matt Collins: Fill in the blank: “Brick and mortar retail is _______.”

Alex Finkel: Brick and mortar retail is alive and well. Retailers have more and more tools at their disposal to engage consumers in the moment and add value to the process of browsing and shopping in store.

MC: What are some of best things you’ve seen traditional brick and mortar stores do to use technology to improve the customer experience?

AF: There have been a number of innovations by retailers that add value and one that’s near and dear to me are iBeacons. Most people hear retail and beacons and immediately think it’s a perfect storm for spamming, and they’re not entirely wrong. That said, those thinking intelligently are finding extremely worthy use cases that are improving the customer journey without having any personal interaction whatsoever; from notifying store associates to check in with a customer to improving wait times in lines, beacons can add value without being intrusive.

MC: Roximity is doing cutting edge work with beacons for the Brooklyn Nets, right?
AF: The Nets have outfitted their arena with beacons and have integrated our SDK [“software development kit”] into their existing Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets apps. By leveraging their existing app install base, the Nets are able to provide micro-location services and campaigns to their fans rather than start from scratch – some examples include using beacons to welcome guests via a push notification from the app, deliver offers based on in-game activity, and allow for targeted real time ticket upgrades (only fans in the upper sections receive the prompt to upgrade their seats before tip-off). We’re doing a number of other deployments with brands and retailers across the U.S., so stay tuned for more info once those pilots come to an end.
MC: Are technologies like beacons and smartphone payments available only to the big boys, or are there affordable, productive solutions that small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) can use?
AF: From an affordability standpoint, I think beacons are a great option and the solution can be inexpensive; in addition, the hardware prices will only drop as the technology commoditizes. The only impediment to an SMB entering the arena is an audience (i.e. an app with strong distribution) to interact with. This is no small challenge; while more and more coupon and shopping apps are integrating beacon SDKs, it will be interesting to see who caters to SMBs and how they distribute both the hardware and the added services of their app. I imagine there’s quite an opportunity for the Groupons and Yelps of the world to augment their merchant tools by providing a beacon solution that delivers a more targeted offer and helps track redemption of their ad/content.
MC: For all the progress e-commerce has made, it still accounts for only six percent of total retail sales. In five years, will brick and mortar command more or less of total retail revenues?
AF: This one is interesting – we’re certainly seeing brick and mortar businesses armed with a new suite of tools to cater to shoppers and spur “webrooming” (in theory, beacons could be used to deliver an offer or product information to a customer in store based on their online behavior). Even Amazon is jumping on and opening a retail store in New York City.
An example of an indicator in the other direction is that CPGs are feeling the need to move into e-commerce; finding ways to make their products easily searchable and correctly displayed for purchase online. This scenario is popular in the UK, with consumers purchasing online or via mobile and then picking up the bagged groceries from the store.
In 5 years I think brick and mortar will still account for the lion’s share, but the tide will continue to slowly shift towards e-commerce. That said, I think the lines will be blurred as more and more people with use both as purchases are made (either via “showrooming” or “webrooming”).
MC: Last year, we talked about beacons. This year brought Apple Pay and other electronic payment methods. What innovation do you think could come next?
AF: A bit of an obvious one but I think the Internet of Things is huge and it’s getting closer to becoming a reality for many Americans. If that’s too obvious, I’ll go with hover boards.
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