By John Gaffney, Senior Editor
It might be the long sought solution for click tracking in stores. Or it might be another customer tracking technology that takes a long time for retailers to understand and adopt. Whatever it turns out to be there are certainly some dramatic possibilities in InfoSys new Shopping 360 technology. As positioned by InfoSys executives, Shopping 360 is a combination of auto-ID technologies that allow retailers to track shoppers as they travel through a store and even as they browse shelves and make purchases. This tracking is enabled by an in-store network of wireless sensor-based applications. “It enables real-time collaboration between people (shoppers), places (retailers) and products (CPG companies) at the point of purchase,” says InfoSys.
The product is patent-protected and secretive at this time. However, it is being pitched by the company as a technology that is affordable and a generator of information that will lead to more customer loyalty and even more total spend. The jury is still out on whether Shopping 360 will displace RFID technology. The company says it monitors shelf activity without “expensive RFID tags.” The cost is expected to be low. In fact it is “without capital investment” according to the company’s collateral material.
It also has a mobile phone component. “A software application gets downloaded onto a shopper’s cellular phone when they opt-in to use the Shopper Concierge service (the application in Shopping 360 that serves shopping lists and targeted offers). The software application communicates with the ShoppingTrip360 platform over the wireless Internet,” says an InfoSys spokesperson. “This permission-based opt-in network ensures that the shopper controls his own privacy and ability to interact with the store network. It also ensures that CPG companies for the first time in history have the ability to interact with the shopper at the moment-of-truth in a location-aware and context-aware environment. The shopper can download recipes, shopping lists, and receive advertisements, coupons, relevant messaging. The shopper can finally actively engage with this network just like she does today when she logs onto the internet.”
The technology has been in beta testing and the company isn’t saying what retailers or CPG firms have been involved. But if it’s a wireless technology that enables the amount of in-store tracking and information collection that it promises, many retail analysts are hyped.
“Our firm often talks about the notion of an in-store "cookie" and what it may one day be,” says Laura Davis Taylor, CEO of Retail Media Consulting. “Many times, we've talked about enabling the cell phone to serve this role, as it seems logical that a shopper might one day be able to "identify" their presence with their phone for opt-in shopper tracking--if they are motivated to do so. Reviewing the Infosys technology was very exciting for us because it appears to embrace all of the above. It links shopper data, shopper behavior, inventory, store operations and more to provide an "ecosystem" of sorts that can generate some of the powerful insights e-commerce websites do--and isn't that the model we should be going for in-store? Most importantly, it's permission-based, ensuring that it will be accepted while allowing the retailers to learn how to better serve their shopper. Kudos to them.”
Among the technologies promised in the Shopping 360 network are “store heat maps” which track cart paths; “smart shelves,” which track inventory and shelf browsing activities; and “smart visual merchandising” which enables couponing, more information on products and recommendations on new products.
What will it do for retailers and CPG firms? Retailers can monitor the total number of shoppers and their shopping trip paths, allowing them to gauge in-store energy demand based on occupancy, or open new checkout counters when lines start forming. CPG companies get granular visibility on the efficiency of their promotional spending, through an analysis of shoppers who interact with promotional displays, or through monitoring shopper traffic to a particular area as well as subsequent purchases.