For the first time ever Microsoft is showing us how technology could change how we shop in stores. The Microsoft Retail Experience Center in Redmond reveals what technologies could give brick-and-mortar stores an edge in an age of growing online shopping.
“What’s happening in retail today is you’ve got a lot of increased pressure coming from online retailers,” said Brendan O’Meara, Managing Director of Retail and Consumer Goods at Microsoft. “Some might call this the Amazon effect.”
“I can see where I spend most of my time in this store,” said Marty Ramos, CTO of Worldwide Retail Industry for Microsoft, as he pointed to a screen with a layout of a mock store in the center. “I also show what product the customer’s most likely to purchase. There’s a 75 percent chance they’re here to buy this game.”
Microsoft said a growing number of businesses are using beacon technology but wouldn’t reveal who those customers are. O’Meara said Microsoft encourages those who use it to be very clear about what information they’ll collect from customers.
“One of the most important things as a retailer … as a merchant … is to make sure you’re very transparent about what you’re collecting about the customers and use opt-in in order to make sure if that customer is exchanging information with you that they understand,” he said.
Ramos said the technology is similar to how we surf the Internet.
“At first glance it’s kind of creepy,” he said. “But the interesting thing is everything we’re doing on here – happens when we’re on the web. When I’m browsing a store’s website – they know when I enter the website, what products I look at and how long I look at those products.”
He used ordering coffee as an example of how clients use the Bluetooth beacon. “As I approach the store, my phone sees a Bluetooth sensor and when it does that – it notifies the barista over here that I’m in proximity of the store and they should start making my coffee,” he said. “So by the time I get to the counter, my cup of coffee is fresh and hot and sitting on the counter.”
All the scenarios we’re talking about today are actually reality. These are experiences that are being used in retail stores of all sizes from small merchants up to large merchants.