How Beacons Drive Context for Consumer 360

For retailers, including online retailers, having a physical presence is a unique opportunity to forge closer customer relations and boost traffic and sales. In order to succeed, retailers need to create dynamic, context-driven shopping experiences.

Beacons and more broadly IoT devices are the enablers of these experiences. Beacons are small and typically hidden devices that use Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless and geo-fencing technology. The customer’s mobile device proactively ‘listens’ for a signal when a customer is within a specified range of a beacon so that customer location and additional data can be leveraged to propose enhanced services.

The number of proximity sensors deployed globally has increased 17 percent during the last quarter. ABI Research forecasts eight million beacons will be deployed by the end of 2016 and this will grow to 400 million by 2020. Beacons are gaining maturity as a technology and the Bluetooth 5.0 upgrade should go a step further by reducing the dependency on applications installed on the mobile device.

Geo-fencing can be delivered by beacons but also via WIFI hotspots or similar connected devices that track both anonymous visitors and known customers in order to provide the right information at the right place and at the right time.

Once the customer has installed the retailer’s app or a branded app onto his smartphone and opts in for interactions, the app can link location data with other sources of customer information in order to proactively propose value-added services.


Local Context Is Not Enough

Beacons and other connected “things” (IoT) only provide local context information. They help identify the current local conditions in the given moment: Who is involved and what are the conditions locally such as geolocation, temperature or any other local context information.

But personalized experiences also require combining consumer insights with this local context. The user’s profile information such as demographics, preferences based on past transactions, interactions via posts online and calls into customer service all provide rich content to understand and make the right product or promotional offers to the customer.

The more content and context we have, the more precise the product offer or promotion can be. User knowledge can be further enriched with information about the places in range, the vehicle used, weather history and more. Search capabilities and machine learning help identify the next best action.

Geospatial-beacon-challenges

Okay, so we know these technologies are great — why then do so few retailers use them? Where it gets complicated is that all these data points are usually stored in different silos, each of which has their own lifecycle, formats and were never designed to be merged into a single Consumer 360.

Moreover, the Consumer 360 requires continuous updates of new touchpoints, partners or incremental changes to existing sources. So the best solution for a Consumer 360 integrates multiple sources of structured and unstructured consumer data – delivered in an operational format in real-time. Consumers respond best to relevant promotions and product offers when they are in the store or online as opposed to generic offers sent to them via the mail or in a Sunday newspaper insert.

Unfortunately, large investments by retailers in Relational Technology like Oracle do not help here. Relational Technology works well with structured data that fits easily into rows and columns and with a data model that is defined via a schema up front. Further investments into data lakes like Hadoop have offered cheap storage for batch data but lack the real-time operational capabilities required for a Consumer 360.


Five Must Haves for Consumer 360

  1. Schema-Agnostic Data Model: This means that you do not have to spend a year trying to figure out the right data model and perfect schema to analyze and store data on consumers, products and supply upfront. Instead, you can load the data, have it indexed automatically and then search and query it for consumer trends and signals.
  2. Geospatial: MarkLogic can manage complex geospatial data, queries and analytics at scale. This means it’s possible to combine customer view with all related geolocations which can be preferred stores locations, transactions geolocations, and of course, current user position coming from Beacon interactions or similar devices in order to get more precise insights.
  3. Operational: is an operational database with real-time capabilities that enables you to respond and execute transactions in real-time. Simply put, you can run your business on MarkLogic and execute real-time transactions and offers to consumers as they enter your stores.
  4. Security: When handling this type of consumer data, security breaches are a risk you cannot afford. MarkLogic has focused on having government-grade security from the start and has certified, granular security for modern data governance and to handle the increased complexity of today’s cyber threats.
  5. Scalable: MarkLogic runs on commodity hardware that is scalable and elastic, enabling clients to cope with peaks in demand when new products or promotions are announced – without over-provisioning or over-spending.

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How This Works for a Consumer 360

Personalized experiences are improved by storing geolocated offers, editorial contents and product information in the same Operational Data Hub. The data and content are enriched in real-time with geospatial information in order to perform queries that mix typical search criteria on values, text, dates with complex geospatial areas.

MarkLogic can finally deliver real-time push alerts by matching a local context received via REST services with all available data coming from customer 360, including offers and other geolocated contents.

MarkLogic completes the customer experience by applying specialized REST APIs that leverage reverse query capabilities. The reverse query combines the local context from the beacons with all other insights to create offers, content or products that may be of the most interest to the customer – all in real-time.

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With MarkLogic, retailers are given the power to recognize their consumers when they enter the store or the contextual area, make relevant offers to them via their consumer profiles, and close the deal with them in real-time. Now that’s retail Nirvana or a Consumer 360 that creates a win-win for customers and retailers alike.