GeoMarketing 101: What Is Indoor Positioning?
The two main practical applications of indoor positioning play off each other nicely: navigational assistance for the customer and analytics data for the business.
Location data, geofencing, geofilters. Location-based technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers — but it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.
With the goal of breaking down some of the most important “geo” concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far the power of location may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: understanding indoor positioning.
What is indoor positioning?
Indoor positioning systems (or IPS, as opposed to GPS) is the umbrella term for a variety of systems that use consumers’ mobile devices to track their physical position within a building and offer navigational and wayfinding assistance.
Usually this means that the system judges the distance of the consumer’s mobile device from points around the store, whether those are wi-fi access points or Bluetooth beacons, and concludes their position in real time. The customer may be able to see their current position on a map of the building provided through a mobile app.
An interesting variation on indoor positioning is magnetic positioning used by companies like IndoorAtlas. Rather than relying on installed reference points like beacons, magnetic positioning uses the natural magnetism of the steel infrastructure of a building itself to map exactly where a customer’s phone is at any given time.
Practical Applications of Indoor Positioning
It’s easy to see why a system that helps customers better navigate a store is appealing. Larger businesses like department or hardware stores can especially benefit from reducing the number of basic “where are the drills?” questions their sales associates have to field.
But the uses extend beyond just helping customers find their way, to the analytical realm as well. If a business can see exactly where customers are at any time, data can be gathered on what areas of the store are seeing the most traffic and what are being ignored, what paths are customers generally taking when they walk in the door, how long they stayed in the store, and whether they wandered aimlessly or went straight for the desired products.
What Are Brands (And Vendors) Doing With Indoor Positioning In The Real World?
Brands have embraced both sides of indoor positioning in recent months: the navigation and analytics aspects.
For example, Indoorway, an IPS providers that uses a combination of wi-fi, Bluetooth, and magnetic positioning, has helped retailers “understand customers’ routines and habits, and therefore monetize the space of their facilities,” according to CEO Konrad Stanik.
BT’s In-store Visibility is an interesting inversion, where they’ve been tracking the products’ position within the store, rather than the customers. That means they can see when an item is picked up and walked around the store or brought to the fitting room, and whether it’s put back on the shelf or ultimately purchased. In this way, they’re able to get a better understanding of how the consumer is interacting with the product.
On the navigational side, the biggest name to work in IPS in recent months is Google, whose Maps app recently unveiled the ability to map the interiors of certain larger buildings, like Home Depot. Google’s patent reveals that rather than traditional indoor positioning methods, the company uses a variation on its traffic data collection system that used actual pathways taken by people carrying Android phones to establish a map of the inside of the store. While most GPS systems don’t work indoors due to interference from the building itself, Google may evolve to integrating their GPS app with other IPS systems in the future.