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Move Over IoT, Aisle411 Is Set To Create The ‘Internet of Stores’

Aisle411 And InvenSense have begun tests to track mobile consumers’ real-rime retail movements for behavioral targeting and insights.

Aisle411's Nathan Pettyjohn
Aisle411’s Nathan Pettyjohn

Indoor mapping technology provider Aisle411 is incorporating the ability to track shoppers’ physical in-store movements through a partnership with motion sensor software company, InvenSense. The goal is to bring the kind of desktop, cookie-based ad targeting to brick and mortar retail environments.

InvenSense’s motion sensor application is being added to the array of location-based tech tools that St. Louis-based Aisle411 already relies on, such as Bluetooth-powered beacons, ultrasound, and LED lighting. Each these technologies have their drawbacks and limits; for example, beacons tend to work best when a consumer has already downloaded a branded app and has their Bluetooth receiver turned on; and LED lighting depends on a smartphone camera being pointed at an overhead fixture.

Bringing Online To Offline

“For a long time, retailers and brands have wanted to understand consumers’ activity in a store in the same way they understand what people are looking at and doing on their websites,” said Nathan Pettyjohn, Aisle411’s CEO/founder. “Because of our indoor mapping capabilities, we can track shopper intent, whether that intent originated from a commerce site. We can therefore recommend products and how it changes a consumer’s website behavior. In comparison, when it comes to the physical store, everyone’s been playing a guessing game.”

Aisle411 store map.
Aisle411 store map.

InvenSense executives and Aisle411 unveiled their collaboration on indoor positioning and location data at the Global Shop 2015 retail conference in Las Vegas during the last week in March. The two technologies blend data that connect to a smartphone’s sensor with wifi and beacon signals to show someone “dwelling, walking, in-elevator, and on stairs/escalator positioning,” Pettyjohn said.

In addition, Aisle411’s data platform gathers UPC (i.e., barcodes) shelf location data and combines it with shoppers’ positions to provide context for retailers and brands.

Potentially, the combined technology can show how shopping and real-world browsing happens at the shelf level. With the ability to record how much time someone spent browsing in a specific area, retailers can learn what in-store marketing and displays are engaging consumers.

Ultimately, the promise of possibly combining their technologies represents “the advertising Holy Grail” to businesses generally. And for consumer packaged goods brands specifically, the greater insights could lead to better marketing both outside and within stores.

Store tracking test in action. While consumers will be asked to opt-in to the wifi and beacon signals, the comprehensive view of their in-store shopping excursion can help retailers and brands understand whether their products are well-positioned and learn what motivates a customer to continue or cease their purchase path.
Store tracking test in action: While consumers will be asked to opt-in to the wifi and beacon signals, the comprehensive view of their in-store shopping excursion can help retailers and brands understand whether their products are well-positioned and learn what motivates a customer to continue or cease their purchase path.

IoT meets IoS

Pettyjohn didn’t discuss the terms of the work between Aisle411 and InvenSense, noting that they are not engaged an “official” partnership. He also is not disclosing names of the two brands they’re working with, but did offer descriptions. One is a large drug store chain, and the other is a “large format retailer” with indoor surface areas that can stretch beyond 100,000 square feet.

While the two companies had been talking about doing a deal for some time, the opportunity didn’t present itself until the new motion sensor chip sets began to be included in the new iPhone 6 and 6-plus. Since Google’s Android system already had that ability, Apple’s addition of motion sensors closed the loop around this kind of positioning technology.

“There’s a lot of hype around the Internet of Things, and that all makes sense,” Pettyjohn said. “But the real opportunity is defining that idea in a more detailed way. So what we and InvenSense want to do is create the ‘Internet of Stores.’”

Like online ad targeting, having a depth of data to understand positioning down to a shelf level at scale is the key. The question is not so much whether retailers and brands will find the data valuable — after all, the adoption of programmatic ad platforms has driven an insatiable appetite for consumer marketing analytics.

But consumers may find the “every step you make” quality of the monitoring invasive at worst and simply unhelpful in a least-worse case scenario.

That’s partly why Aisle411 and InvenSense are exercising caution and patience when it comes to a wider rollout. For now, this technology is just in the testing stages. But Pettyjohn and Aisle411 have long been ahead of the “creepiness” issue and they stress the need for retailers to have a clear opt-in/opt-out for any tracking or proximity marketing program.

“What we like about InvenSense and their solution is that it makes so much possible,” Pettyjohn said. “It’s very early stages so there is no scaled solution that we have deployed yet, but I think you’re going to see it in the next 12 to 18 months and it breaks down some of these dependencies on hardware and beacons that I think are going to be just a small piece of this overall positioning puzzle.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.