The “Customer Journey” – Venue-Based Technology Offerings

We recently spoke with two companies that have both adopted the mantra of “Customer Journey” to embrace their venue-based marketing and service technology offerings.

However, the two companies – IBM and Prism Skylabs – are using the phrase in very different contexts. Our discussion with IBM was about their announcement of a contract to provide an array of services for the new football stadium in Atlanta, to be opened in 2017. The services required by the stadium managers were designed to provide a “unique fan experience.”

Prism, by contrast, offers sophisticated video capture and analysis services, primarily to retailers. Its interest in the Customer Journey is to literally capture the details of how traffic moves within stores and present analytical information to store owners and managers.

The idea of trying to capture, analyze, influence, improve, etc. the “experience” of the shopper/fan or other party in various types of venues is clearly the rage today. This was manifest throughout dozens of exhibits at the January NRF (National Retail Federation) Convention. As interactive retail solutions provider T1Visions stated in a summary of the show, the “store” of the future must be “a remarkable one-of-a-kind environment… and provide a positive emotional experience.” (“5 TRENDS TO EXPECT IN RETAIL IN 2015: Notes, Observations, and Key Trends from NRF15” T1 Visions 2015).

While concepts and approaches are still at a formative stage, based upon meetings and discussions with a large number of tech companies with varying approaches, we believe the opportunities being currently addressed that revolve around the Customer Journey include:

Mobile Cloud Era Table - Customer Journey

Store Management
The most extensive offering that we’ve seen is a company that has already quietly achieved penetration of several thousand QSR locations (quick service restaurants, – fast food places, to us commoners.) They offer a rather comprehensive SaaS which assimilates data from: cameras, POS, sensors (e.g., for refrigeration equipment) with alerts to events such as suspicious meddling in the cash register. Several other companies are using camera data to develop analytics for marketing and operations (see: “Prism Skylabs: Enhanced Video Tracking Of Retail In-Store Traffic” 2/26/15). Systems that capture and analyze POS data are also widely available.

Shop Floor
See, for example, our article “Red Ant – Optimizing The Mobile In-Store Experience” (7/23/14) about a UK-based company that is providing salespeople with information on their mobile both about the customer standing in front of them and the products the individual is interested in. Another interesting example is a beacon provider that has a gambling casino client and is providing realtime information to employees about the presence nearby in the casino of “high rollers.” Furthermore robots have started invading retail shop floors, the highest visibility recent example in the U.S. being the OSHbots in Lowes stores.

Customer Engagement
Reams have already been written about the issue of the need for retailers to engage the customer in-store or face the bleak prospect of losing out totally to ecommerce There are numerous creative solutions being offered. These invariably require customer opt-in and some type of micro-location technology, such as iBeacons or Wi-Fi based systems like IBM’s Presence Zones. (For iBeacons, see: “Signal 360: Beacons, Their Progress And Issues” 10/4/14)

Security could be considered part of Store Management, however, it has existed as a “high tech” area for years, most notably popularized by TV crime shows where detectives have woken up to the fact that the “perps’” identities my be revealed on the in-store security camera footage. While this footage typically went off to archives in the past, the area of video camera security is being taken to new levels by the combination of cloud and mobile. See, for example, our article, “Smartvue – Video Apps That Change Business Processes” (1/12/15). Wearables may, in the future, assume a security function supplementing traditional cameras and iBeacons can also have security functionality.

It should be noted that virtually all of these opportunities involve Big Data or Big Video and requirements for realtime or near-realtime analytics capabilities. We expect the Customer Journey, in all of its manifestations, to be a growth area for the next several years. It is a prime example of how the convergence of mobile and cloud computing is changing business processes in numerous ways and we will continue to follow this entire area very closely as it evolves.

Photo by Valdas Ruzgys [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons