As the days of omnichannel retail morph into a unified commerce business model and infrastructure, the consensus among retail executives and industry analysts on its reality is overshadowed by the daunting task ahead, and a lack of clarity on the how to do it.
What is Mobile Check-In?
Mobile check-in to a venue is the detection and identification of a smartphone user at the entrance of a venue which is equipped with locating devices, whether Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, WiFi access points, cameras or other technologies.
The Many Ways to ‘Mobile Check-In’
There are many applications of a mobile check-in system, allowing a person to be safely, securely and privately known to those they trust, whether brands, institutions or other people. Some of these are summarised below
A prime opportunity for mobile check-in to bring value is in the retail sector. E-commerce has allowed customers and retailers to engage in very different ways from traditional brick-and-mortar commerce. With mobile check-in, the online world can extend into the offline experience.
How does it work?
When a user enters a store, signals are exchanged between locating devices, the smartphone app and cloud services, allowing the user, if they wish, to be identified and greeted personally. The mobile check-in is immediate if the app is open, or the app is woken up if in the background or terminated to send the user a notification.
The checked-in app is location-aware, and opens a dedicated communication channel between the store brand and the customer while in-store. Shopping suggestions and rewards reminders can enrich the whole store visit from the moment of checking-in, not just at checkout. And store utilities such as navigation, product search and local assistance make the experience even more efficient.
Why does it matter?
To understand its value to a brand, let’s first consider the state of the app industry.
The digital divide between online and physical stores is narrowing with renewed investment in retail brand app development of innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality and chatbots.
Are apps worth the investment?
When it comes to capital expenditure on app development, the question of Return On Investment (ROI) becomes pressing.
Smartphone users access on average nine apps a day and thirty a month
with the most common being social media, video, music, gaming and utilities.
And to make matters worse, 77% of usage time is spent on users’ top three apps. Not surprisingly, the number of apps in Apple’s and Google’s stores started declining in 2018 .
Yet, mobile apps are not only here to stay, they also make a significant contribution to retail sales. According to Deloitte, the estimated mobile retail e-commerce sales in the USA alone is estimated to have reached US$207B in 2018, up 32% .
And the lion’s share of mobile e-commerce traffic is brand apps, which deliver user convenience, a better user interface and better performance compared to mobile sites. It was in late 2017 that mobile apps took the lead over both desktop and mobile sites for the first time ever in the USA .
A retailer cannot afford to ignore this trend, and a recent survey indicated that 50% of American retailers have made a shopping app their top priority .
The key question is, what are the compelling reasons for a smartphone user to download and open a retail app?
Clearly, a lot has to do with the quality of the content, yet, one way to increase the use of an app is to make it available and useful the moment a customer enters a brick-and-mortar store, with a mobile check-in.
The new in-store functionality extends the scope of the app to store assistance and advice, effectively guiding the customer through a physical space. As some retailers have trialled (see section Early Adopters), the physical space can be designed as an expression of the online space.
Beyond push notifications
Many retailers have installed Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons in their stores to promote and make attractive offers to store guests and passers-by. In the early days of beacon technology, this form of advertising called ‘Proximity Marketing’ came with its upsides and downsides, the main downside being the impersonal broadcast nature of the notifications, often considered spam notifications.
Because of the excessive spamming of smartphone users over the years, in late 2018 Google discontinued the underlying mechanism for Proximity Marketing in the Android operating system. Any ‘Proximity Marketing’ notifications will now require an app to embed this functionality, with user-enabled consent.
So, to be clear: Mobile Check-In is not Proximity Marketing
With mobile check-in, brands present themselves to each customer personally, establishing a climate of trust and respect. By opting-in, customers signal their interest in being greeted on arrival and in receiving personalised notifications, messages and utilities that are relevant to them and that enhance their shopping experience.
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Parousya was created to provide technology that automatically connects a customer to a business in a physical space in order to unify the online with the offline and open up a world of opportunities