You may or may not have noticed the Alex and Ani Super Bowl commercial but it was effective (see below). Now the company is in the news again with the first full retail rollout of iBeacon (Bluetooth) indoor location technology in all 40 of its stores nationwide.
While others are testing indoor location, no other retailer has completed such a rollout to all its locations. American Eagle previously announced a full-store deployment of iBeacon with ShopKick but that has yet to be completed.
Alex and Ani is doing the rollout in partnership with Swirl Networks. Swirl deployed the hardware and offers a consumer-facing app to help drive traffic into specialty retail stores. Swirl has also worked with Timberland and Kenneth Cole in the same capacity.
The central figure behind the rollout for Alex and Ani is Ryan Bonifacino, vice president of digital strategy. He’s not a typical retail executive and comes from a venture capital background.
Bonifacino said that the company started testing Swirl and iBeacon in two stores in Q1 of 2013, well before most other retailers. He said the experience convinced the company to deploy the technology in all of its 40 locations.
One of the considerations is to create a better in-store experience. Another is gaining more data and visibility on customers in the aggregate, which can help the company personalize and fine tune its other digital marketing efforts.
One of the things that iBeacon can do is provide data about consumer behaviors in stores to test the effectiveness of merchandising and store layouts — you can now actually A/B test physical displays in stores — as well as staffing levels. The implications for retailers (and others) are profound.
There are a range of companies also providing similar “offline analytics” to retailers and venue owners, utilizing multiple technologies, including iInside, RetailNext, Euclid, Mexia and a number of other firms. Major League Baseball is deploying iBeacons in all its ballparks to offer in-stadium mobile marketing and loyalty services to sports fans through its MLB app.
Of course iBeacon is just one of several indoor location and indoor positioning technologies. Others include IP-connected cameras, WiFi, magnetic field energy, LED lighting, RFID and sound waves.
Indoor location and positioning is also a way to help track the impact of traditional and digital advertising at the store level. Google, Facebook and Twitter are all now employing multiple methodologies to try and report on the offline impact of their advertising.
Indoor location is a radical but little understood new area and will be the subject of increasing interest and exploration in 2014.