At the dawn of the smartphone age, forward-thinking marketers realized the potential for geofencing technology. It quickly became reality: advertisers could track consumers via their handheld’s built-in GPS. But the limitations meant it was only effective outside. The challenge then became how to target and engage customers who were indoors. Not surprisingly, it was the giant from Cupertino that finally came up with the solution—in the form of iBeacon, an application that utilized Bluetooth Low Energy Technology.
To further elucidate this exploding trend, we spoke with Nick Stein. Nick is the Head of Marketing at Indoo.rs. He brings with him over 12 years of international marketing experience for big brands such as Manchester United, and 4 years project management experience for the BBC and British Council. Born in the U.S., he has lived in Vienna for the past 6 years.
Guided-Selling: Thanks for taking the time to chat. Tell us about your company.
Nick Stein: Indoo.rs is a Software provider that creates best-of-breed indoor mapping, positioning, and routing technology. We enable end users to accurately locate themselves and others inside buildings using a Bluetooth enabled tablet or smartphone. It started when Bernd Gruber (COO) was on a layover at an airport and it was difficult for him to find certain stores or facilities to kill time.
Guided-Selling: So you guys are experts in beacon technology?
Nick Stein: Well, as a company that does not make beacons, I would say we could be considered experts, as we work with all known beacon vendors worldwide, giving us a very good insight into the various tech on the market.
We started by using Wi-Fi for navigation and positioning, but in 2013 that all changed. This is when the iBeacon protocol came out. We now use a multi-sensor approach to increase the accuracy.
Guided-Selling: Where does the company stand today?
Nick Stein: Since founding Indoo.rs in 2010, it hasn’t taken long for the company to become the indoor positioning and navigation technology leader. We believe In-Location is the next evolutionary milestone for the PNT industry.
Guided-Selling: Let’s go back. What are beacons and how do they work?
Nick Stein: The quick overview of Beacons: they are small, mainly battery powered transmitters that send low energy Bluetooth signals out to smartphones and tablets. The beacons can be configured to a number of different protocols, but iBeacon (Apple) and Eddystone (Google) are the main commercial known ones. Beacons can come in many shapes and sizes.
Guided-Selling: Okay, brass tacks: what are the benefits of this technology?
Nick Stein: The situation is that people spend more than 90% of their time indoors. Using its cutting edge technology, Indoo.rs offers unique possibilities to exploit the interior space and add location intelligence to mobile apps.
Guided-Selling: A highly precise form of proximity marketing.
Nick Stein: We of course do that but we are mainly focused on the navigation and positioning side. There is of course areas of overlap.
Guided-Selling: So where does Indoo.rs place its focus?
Nick Stein: We’ve seen in the past 10 years a really big split between online and offline shopping. Think about how much shopping is done over the holidays online. In the UK alone 17.4 billion GBP was spent last year. Of course, this figure will only increase annually.
The other phenomenon is “showrooming.” This is where people try things on in a store to see if they like it or to find their size. Then they buy it online because it’s cheaper. The consensus is that these combined trends are damaging the high streets in the western world.
However, through the use of beacons, it is now possible to see how long someone has been at a store, what they might be interested in, and if they leave without purchasing. It’s at this point we can send a special offer tailored directly to them, thus gently nudging them back inside. Simply put, beacons connect the online and offline world, making retail shopping a fair fight again. Through navigation, we can of course make sure that the shopper takes the quickest route to what they are looking for.
Guided-Selling: It’s interesting that you mention the high street, because the Harvard Business Review cited a pilot program implemented by Regent, in which the London giant installed beacons in many of their 140 store entrances. What were some of the most exciting real-world cases you’ve encountered?
Nick Stein: We’re constantly being surprised by the suggested-use cases. But a different example is our modern tour guide with mumok, in Vienna, where we’ve strategically placed beacons to send info when a person is near a specific painting/exhibit.
For a more shopping-based example, we’re working with a number of shopping malls on remembering your parking spot, navigation, and also triggering events when you’re near a store. This is also applicable to supermarkets like Billa, whom we work with.
Guided-Selling: Provided folks can view the message. What about sensory-impaired smartphone users?
Nick Stein: I’m glad you bring that up. Indoo.rs endeavors to reach everybody, regardless of physical impairment. That’s why, in cooperation with San Francisco International Airport and the city of San Francisco, we have unveiled a prototype smartphone app that assists visually impaired passengers. Not only was there the bonus of helping navigate the passengers from A-to-B, but also giving them the spatial awareness to know what was in their immediate vicinity. Right now it’s active in terminal 2 of SFO, but we hope for the day when this technology is available across the globe.
Guided-Selling: And finally, what is your outlook of the future?
Nick Stein: More applications, more installations. Beacons will continue to personalize the customer experience, which will lead to greater engagement and, ultimately, greater loyalty. This technology will be the bridge between online and offline, turning the average man or woman into a fully integrated digital consumer. High-street stores will compete in real time directly with online retailers and consumers will get the latest offers when they pass a window. The message will say: “Hey, wait a minute, here’s an item you might like, and it’s 30% off.”
Another very interesting case of course would be combining beacons with Guided Selling. Imagine you’re in the paint section of a DIY store, not sure which paint to get for your living room. Because of your frequent position changes or similar signals, beacons could pick up on your indecisiveness and proactively send you a notification to use an interactive paint advisor that can help you to choose the right color right on your mobile phone.
Guided-Selling: So we will be looking into an exciting future. Thank you very much for sitting down with us.