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How retail store
customer navigation
technology can
help improve
experiences
and revenue

Author: Shane Schick

You have likely had that experience where you've gone into a store to purchase a specific product but couldn't find what you were looking for. When this happens, it's not just the customer that should be frustrated—a retail store is not able to sell a product if the customer can't find it.

When shoppers come to a store with a specific purchase in mind, the ideal customer journey is one where they quickly and easily find what they want. That's why retail store customer navigation systems have the potential to ensure a great customer experience from the moment a customer arrives to when they check out. Yet helping customers navigate a store is only the start of how this technology can benefit customers and your bottom line.

Micro-location in-store customer navigation

Retail store customer navigation technology might sound complicated, particularly when you consider how retail stores are often organized into a wide range of aisles or sections where specific product categories are stocked. This is where micro-location technology comes into play.

A micro-location is a clearly defined subsection of the retail store. Imagine a retailer that sells multiple types of clothes and home products. The clothing area will not only be organized by menswear or children's wear but also categories within those—a "micro-location" would be the men's swimsuit section, for example. The home-products area might include sections for kitchen appliances, laundry appliances and other micro-locations.

How retail store customer navigation technology works

Retail stores can take advantage of these micro-locations by placing a low-energy beacon in each one. These beacons are generally tailor-made for indoor spaces with a discreet, low-profile design.

Then, when a customer uses their smartphone in-store, they can use an app that leverages a sensor fusion algorithm to calculate their real-time device position. The app takes advantage of built-in smartphone sensors including Bluetooth, Altimeter, Magnetometer, Gyroscope and Accelerometer. This same technology can be used in specially designed shopping carts or even robots to provide the same functionality.

In-store customer navigation technology offers an alternative to signs posted at the top of aisles that are often outdated, inaccurate or group micro-locations together.

How store navigation benefits customers and retailers

The most obvious use case of this technology is to help customers find the products they'd like to purchase or peruse. Customers can use the app to access dynamic, indoor turn-by-turn navigation in a manner similar to GPS for a car. This has huge potential, particularly for retail locations in high-tourism areas where customers may not be familiar with the store layout. When you consider 52% of consumers prefer to find new products in stores, it's clear even longtime customers can make use of the technology, particularly to find products in micro-locations they haven't visited before or are less familiar with.

Personalizing service with retail proximity sensors

By deploying a retail proximity sensor in micro-locations, retailers can offer a personalized customer experience. For example, when a consumer arrives at a particular location, the app can push a notification with hyper-targeted ads, offers or product/service information in near-real time based on the customer's exact location.

Around one-third of in-store shoppers use their smartphones while shopping, with key uses including comparing prices, searching for offers and discounts, and finding product information. Thanks to micro-locations and retail store customer navigation, these services can be provided without the customer needing to think about it or do anything.

Improving understanding of customer behavior

Customer navigation technology can also be used to help better understand consumer behavior in your store. For example, artificial intelligence/machine learning analysis of total customer movements may indicate store layout inefficiencies that can be rectified to benefit the customer and the retailer.

Enhancing employee efficiency

Employees can also use in-store navigation, particularly useful for those still in training. The technology can also be used to track staff efficiency to improve in-store productivity and protect corporate resources. Employers can also receive automatic notifications related to employee movements, such as a long-term presence or absence in a given zone. These measures can help ensure employee standards are maintained, which ultimately benefits the customer.

The relationship between retail store customer navigation and trust

A recent study showed consumers are increasingly accepting of retailers using beacon technology, so long as it provides value as they shop. Retailers have to be mindful, however, that they treat shopper information with care: 59% of consumers say they've become more protective of their data over the last six months.

As they take advantage of in-store customer navigation technology, retailers should ensure they clearly communicate what kind of information they're collecting and why. They also need to provide a shopping experience where the underlying network allows customers to use apps without any performance issues.

Over time, retailers that strike the right balance between offering in-store customer navigation and respecting data privacy will become more sophisticated in the experiences they deliver. They can study footfall, dwell time, path taken and other information to maximize the potential of every micro-location in their stores. In doing so, they'll drive revenue and, ultimately, secure customer trust.

Discover how technology can elevate experiences in retail today.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.