January 29, 2019
Bottom line: Great news for Valtech customers.
I can sum up what I learned at NRF 2019 in a simple statement: The rebirth of retail is in full swing, and it’s being driven almost entirely by technology. Retail tech was on full display, ranging from stocking and order filling robots, checkout free markets, Alibaba’s store of the future, technology to find the “perfect-fit-apps” that shop for you, lots of big data—and lots of beacons. While many of these technology tools may not be entirely new—based on the calibre of the retailers promoting them—it is clear that adoption is imminent.
First let me introduce myself. My name is Greg Schwartz, and I joined Valtech in December to manage the Vantage program. If you are unfamiliar with Vantage, the 5-second summary is that it’s a technology that helps retailers create complete 360 degree customer profiles by tying a customer’s online profile with retail store analytics. Vantage enables this by using a WiFi network to track customers, through their cell phones, on their journey through a store. This provides retailers with a better understanding of how customers interact with retail products, services and the brand in general. It also gives retailers the ability to tie this new data to a customer’s on-line activity to get a more holistic and complete view of customer interests and preferences.
As a newbie to the retail industry, I took advantage of NRF to ramp up my background and research potential partners for Valtech Vantage and gleaned lots of competitive intel in the process.
I learned that it’s difficult to place Vantage in a product category as there are numerous overlapping customer needs and problems that are currently being solved by a range of tech that counts and tracks. Here is a quick overview of in-store technologies that are trying to solve the in-store/on-line customer divide:
- Traffic Counters – primarily video-based people counters that can segment customers by sex and approximate age. The primary vendors in this space (ShopperTrak, RetailNext, Count Wise, etc.) are well established, embedded within large retailers, and funded.
- BLE Beacons – Beacon-based technology has been around for about five years and has some strong proponents, although the concept stalled a few years ago and has had slow growth since 2016. BLE beacons are excellent for tracking a customer’s journey through a store, however they require the use of a mobile retail application.
- WiFi Marketing – this is a category that started about three years ago and has recently gained momentum. There are multiple small start-ups using WiFi to integrate individual shoppers on and offline profiles (Vantage fits primarily in this category).
- Shopper Profiling using Social Media – the companies help retailers use POS, beacon and WiFi-captured customer information and combine it with social profiles to better understand their customers interests. This information is randomized and then aggregated so brands don’t appear to be digitally stalking their customers.
It’s promising that, when we launch in Q2, Vantage will have features that make it very competitive in the WiFi Marketing space and complementary in the Traffic Counter space. Additionally, our solution aligns with some major trends that are driving retail technology:
100% visitor check-in, 0% check-out time in-store experience
The industry is moving towards a POS model where no shopper is anonymous, and goods are charged to each shopper without the high-friction process of checking out. With Vantage, retailers know who is walking into the store before they walk through the door, allowing sales associates to provide a deeper level of customer attention and service. Since Vantage technology remembers each customer and tracks their store visits and activity without requiring a log-in, the customer’s full profile is accessible at checkout and can be integrated with purchase preferences. The experience is frictionless.
Mobile-centric retail with progressive web apps
Retailers are moving to progressive web apps, which offer an app experience without requiring a download. Since Vantage is an app-less platform, retailers can use it to notify customers when they enter a store (via text, email or through the browser) to take advantage of a web app. Vantage is a perfect complement to a progressive web app.
Advanced web & retail store analytics
Vantage can track customers activity in a store down to the meter, allowing retailers to know their product interests. Online profiles are enhanced with in-store data enabling cross-channel marketing opportunities.
Overall, when Vantage becomes available this spring, it will have several competitive features and solve multiple problems retailers face. Wanna know more?