Inpixon CMO Soumya Das: Retail Is Shifting — Not Dying
The company is connecting indoor positioning to IoT devices — and applying data analytics — in a bid to give retailers better insights.
It’s simple to understand why indoor positioning can be valuable to brick-and-mortar retailers: By understanding when and how customers move about a store, brands can optimize their layout and improve marketing messages.
But Soumya Das, CMO at indoor positioning analytics provider Inpixon, believes that indoor location solutions haven’t gone far enough yet — and retailers in a rapidly changing landscape need insights and analytics that take into account (and connect with) IoT devices.
“Inpixon’s analytics engine not only enables users to collect all of these data points about the [customer journey] and figure out how to communicate with shoppers,” Das said. “But we are able to connect with other IoT systems in the region. That’s important as retail continues to shift.”
GeoMarketing: In your mind, what differentiates Inpixon in the indoor locationing space?
Soumya Das: Marketers have been using [indoor locationing] to improve location context for a few years, but the trouble has been — for Wifi, anyway — the range. The range has been ten to twenty meters, and additionally, it requires people to opt in to the wifi network, [which can be] a difficult hurdle. In general, the quality of [most] data has been poor — and the sampling has been quite small, so the return on investment of the real value of [indoor] location contextual location has not applied.
So, we are facing a challenge here: [Retailers] have tried wifi, and they have tried indoor positioning, and they did not did not get the returns. So, the question is, how will we provide the things that they missed?
With Inpixon, we bring an arm’s length accuracy in positioning — so it’s about going from having a ten to twenty meter range of accuracy and taking that down to [being accurate within a couple of feet.] The way we do that is by triangulating cellular signals, wifi signals, and bluetooth signals, such as through beacons. We also have the analytics platform, so we can [interpret and analyze] all of that data on the back-end.
And what’s important is being able to consider all devices: If a customer has their iPhone, a bluetooth headset, and [an] Apple watch on, then we are taking all of those into consideration. And our analytics engine is taking in millions of data points every six seconds or so, and creating a “bread crumb” trail that is giving us solid picture of the customer journey [that brick-and-mortars] are looking for.
What verticals are you working with currently? Primarily retail?
We have two primary verticals, actually. The first is around commercial use — primarily in shopping malls. We work with five [major mall chains] in the world. They’re rolling out [our solution] in various countries, including North America and Europe.
I can’t name them, but the use has been widespread in those retail properties. The other area that we have is actually for security purposes: detecting known and unknown devices. So we have a huge public sector, government operation. The government uses our centers to secure their buildings; we have about sixteen federal agencies using our product at this point.
As for the physical retail use case, how are retailers using the technology to create a better experience for their customers?
Having the analytics engine [in addition to the indoor positioning] not only enables users to collect all of these data points about the [customer journey] and figure out how to communicate with [shoppers], but we are able to connect with other IoT systems in the region.
For example anything with AR or VR that they are experimenting, or visual displays, or any other beacon technology — all of those can get connected to our analytics platform so you have all of that data in one place.
Because all of the IoT technology that retailers are now bringing into the shopping environment needs a context; it needs the [understanding] that location provides.
Some other examples: Our customers are using the technology to get accurate counts of visitors and repeat visitors. When someone goes out to their car and then comes back in because they forgot something, [with some measurement platforms] it counts as two visits. But for us, because we are looking at mass data, we know that this is the same person who is coming back within the hour.
We are also looking at other IoT technologies and big data — for example, weather. If we bring in weather data and add that to the imperial data collection, we can answer, “do people come in more to the mall when it rains or when it’s dry?”
A lot of the conversation today is around the fact that retail is shrinking. Obviously, the goal of Inpixon is to help retailers enhance the store experience by better understanding their customers, optimizing displays, and more. What’s your take on the future role of physical retail?
In my opinion, it’s not so much “doom and gloom” for retail as much as that we are going through a shift in the industry. And when there is a shift, there is some turmoil. There is this adoption curve that is going on in the technology side, and we are seeing technology companies like Amazon coming into retail, while retail companies are finding it difficult to survive in their own market.
I think one of the angles that we should provide to our retail properties and retail brand owners, is to help them look at: Why is Amazon so successful? What is that they bring in the stores that is more attractive that is absent in the current retail environment. Are there technologies out there that can create an Amazon-like environment in the current store?
And that’s part of our goal: to be the Amazon infrastructure for these retail vendors. To create this sense of infrastructure, and create this kind of [connected] IoT environment that Amazon is creating in their retail space.