Becoming a Connected Shopper

11/12/2012

As you prepare to hit the shops this holiday season, you might consider how technology can aid in the gift-buying process. From facial-recognition kiosks to indoor-navigation capabilities on smartphones, retailers are looking to help shoppers get connected.

Just in time for the holiday season, Macy’s, www.macys.com, announced indoor GPS, which will allow consumers to find their exact location on an iPhone and receive turn-by-turn directions. The app is designed to allow shoppers to search or tap on the map to find specific departments, brands, and other key points in the store.

Macy’s says visitors in the Herald Square store will be able to use the iPhone app, and an app for Android users will be available soon. A similar indoor GPS experience is also available at the American Museum of Natural History and is being tested for use in hospitals and airports as well.


This isn’t Macy’s first foray into connecting its stores. The retail giant also uses RFID (radio-frequency identification) for inventory management and developed a beauty kiosk in partnership with Intel, www.intel.com. Macy’s Beauty Spot allows women to explore merchandise on their own.

Many big retail companies are considering how technology, such as digital signage, can be used to entice buyers. A standard Webcam connects to a digital-signage screen to determine the age, gender, and attention time, and then automatically schedules targeted advertising content for the display.

The same facial-recognition technology can be used to help a shopper at kiosks by predetermining what type of product they are looking for based on age and gender. This allows advertiser to capture critical data and provides customers with a more high-tech shopping experience.

The use of facial recognition in general has been under a microscope lately. In October, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released a report identifying best practices for facial recognition to help protect consumers’ privacy. The FTC recommends digital signs with facial recognition should not be set up in places where children gather and consumers should be made aware if facial tech is being used.

Still, department stores need to consider how technology is impacting the shopping experience in order to compete with the online marketplace. Many traditional brick-and-mortar shops are looking for ways to converge the digital and in-person shopping experience, making stores more appealing than ever before. To learn more about how brick-and-mortar retailers are infusing technology into the buying experience, pick up the Nov/Dec issue of Connected World magazine.





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