‘Talking’ mannequins and retail technology beacons

3rd September 2014

The latest retail technology to hit the high street has been discreetly installed in House of Fraser’s Online Store in Aberdeen, Hawes & Curtis in London and Bentalls department store in Kingston, Surrey.
Customers will soon discover they are being watched by mannequins when they are contacted with information about the clothes the mannequin is modelling. It’s all being done with VMBeacon retail technology from Iconeme which has been designed specifically for the retail market and enables customers to receive relevant purchasing information on their mobile phone when they walk past a mannequin, whether it’s on the shop floor or in a window display.

Photo by Kitti Incédi on Unsplash

Photo by Kitti Incédi on Unsplash

Who will they talk to?

Mannequins will not be able to randomly contact passing customers, only those who have downloaded the free Iconeme app, (available for both iOS and Android) and have switched on the bluetooth on their phone. Only then can they receive the alerts as they pass the VMBeacons concealed in the mannequins or in any other visual merchandising product. The beacons have a range of 50 metres and are sending out alerts all the time, invisible to those without the app but potentially a very useful shopping aid to those with it.

Because the app knows the customer’s age, gender and clothing size, it can tell them immediately if the clothes they are admiring on display are available in store or online. The retailer has a secure website to manage their beacons, which allows them to define what information to transmit to tempt the customer to look at the content in the app. This could be offers and information about the clothes on display and location in the store, as well as suggestions for related accessories, and, if the customer’s size is not available, access to the online store. All the information is easily shared via social media or can be saved within the app for later purchase.

What does this retail technology do for the store?

In return for the rewards and offers to customers, the retailer receives information about buying patterns, such as analytic reports detailing shopping patterns by age, gender and location, even which outfit the customer looked at for longest, all of which can be used to help improve displays, service and sales.

As Jonathan Berlin, Co-founder of Iconeme, said: “This technology will change the way people shop on the high street, as it brings together both on and offline retail. Research shows that customers already use their smartphones while shopping in store, but until now, the retail industry hasn’t realised the full potential of this. The VMBeacon creates a completely new dimension to the shopping experience, by combining the consumer desire to be connected on the go, with the bricks and mortar store.”

It certainly looks like an interesting development that allows the customer to browse the store in a different way using their own personal technology rather than an in-store screen. Even if customers aren’t engaging with sales staff on the shop floor the retailer is receiving instant feedback and instant sales as a result of their displays, even when the store is closed.

Presumably, those customers who already use on-line shopping are aware that data about their shopping patterns is being analysed as the sites suggest items for them to look at based on previous purchases. Hopefully, the app makes it clear to the user just how much of their personal information it passed on to the retailers. And if the customers get too bombarded with alerts from every mannequin they pass, then they will either delete the app or switch off the bluetooth on their phone.