House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis install tracking beacons in mannequins

A way of bringing together online and physical retail
  • Anh Nguyen (Computerworld UK)
  • 16 August, 2014 03:49

House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis and Bentalls are three retailers that are pioneering beacon technology in store mannequins.

The VMBeacon technology, from start-up Iconeme, tracks customers who pass by or shop in the store, and sends them details via their smartphones about clothes on display.

Andy Harding, executive director for multichannel at House of Fraser, said: "With such demand from mobile devices, it's important we continue to bring new technology to our stores, and believe that the Iconeme App provides retailers with an opportunity to really engage with their customers."

Customers with a free Iconeme Android or iOS app on the phones will receive an alert about the content they can access when they are within a 50 metre range of the enabled mannequins. This content may include more detailed photos and descriptions, and customers would also be able to use the app to save looks for later, share them with friends and to access additional offers.

The beacon technology is installed directly in a mannequin or visual merchandising product, and transmits information that has been programmed by the retailer via a secure web portal.

Retailers can choose what information to share with customers, and can access analytic reports to gain customer insight to help improve service and sales. For example, they could receive data such as age and gender of customers, their location, what outfit they viewed and whether a purchase was made online. Customers can set their privacy settings to only share the personal information they want to make public.

Edward Smith, brand manager at Hawes & Curtis, said: "Our visual merchandising team help bring our product to life in the windows and now we can have a better understanding of how this impacts the man and woman in the street.

"The VMBeacon also works 24 hours a day, so we can have instant feedback and instant sales as a result of our displays, even if the store is closed. It's a complete game-changer for the retail industry."

The technology is currently installed in House of Fraser's Aberdeen Online Store, at a Hawes & Curtis store on Jermyn Street, London and at Bentalls' Kingston-upon-Thames store.

In June, over 100 retailers on London's Regent Street announced plans to deploy location-aware beacon technology to offer shoppers personalised services through their mobile devices.

The initiative, run by the Crown Estate, will allow shoppers to download an app which delivers personalised marketing content to their mobiles as they walk by stores, as well as allowing businesses to build a profile of shoppers.

The service will rely on Bluetooth technology deployed at participating retailers, including Hamleys, Hackett, Karl Lagerfeld and Anthologies. More retailers are expected to join up in the near future.

The platform will be iOS only at first, with other operating systems being considered at a later date.

A number of UK retailers have begun to trial location aware services. For example, supermarket chains Tesco and Waitrose are currently looking at the use of Apple's iBeacon technology, after introducing the technology to a small number of stores.