VMBeacon – Part of the key benefit of visiting a store that sells fashion is to gain a sense of that retailer’s sense of style as opposed to merely rifling through a pile of shirts on a table. Mannequins have long been a tool for retailers to provide a view of their offerings that reflects how they will look when assembled in real life – very different from how clothing appears while hanging on a rack. As a shopper, I’ve often been the one in the store taking a photo of the mannequin with my mobile and then hunting through the entire store to assemble the particular items that I like. If I can’t find any of the items, I drag some poor soul working in the store to the mannequin to show them what I need.
VMBeacon by Iconeme is a solution that adds beacons to mannequins in stores to assist shoppers like myself to avoid the effort of searching through the store for the items I wish to purchase or try on that are shown on mannequins. The solution connects beacons to the mannequins in store. Leveraging a yet to be released app, these beacons point shoppers to a page on their mobile that shows all of the items on the mannequin that compose the look. This allows shoppers quick access to the items, and presumably an easier path to find them.
Beacon powered mannequins seem an inevitable solution, and there are a number of considerations for when that really occurs:
- Ensuring that the right data is connected to the right mannequin will be crucial. Checking with the app to ensure that the mannequins settings online match the outfit should be part of the operational store process for changing the mannequin’s ensemble.
- Providing location for items via a mobile app will be difficult in a specialty store environment. There are rarely aisle numbers and sections are difficult to identify. The greater benefit here may just be having the product’s unique identifier and being able to tell if the item is in stock in the correct size. Knowing that, it would be more productive to drive the shopper to store staff for validation of location.
- The demo recommends capturing shoppers into a store with the mannequin beacon on the app sending a message. I’m not certain this is the best use of the technology. The fashion should be the driver to pull out the mobile to get more information, not to stare at the mobile to see the fashions on a tiny screen when I’m in a shopping area with the fashions in the window.
- Sharing fashion via Facebook is well and good, but being able to pin it to Pinterest, or add items to a wishlist or evernote or some other service would be more useful to remember favoured items.
- If the store is not one that I visit often, I’m not likely to have an app. As beacons only work with apps as far as I am aware at present, there will be some missed opportunity for service. Signage or video indicating the service exists and a link to the app would be ideal.
Beacon enabled mannequins are a wonderful idea. Like most solutions, the challenge will be in the details and operations to ensure this concept is implemented to best advantage to retailer, store staff and shoppers.
Amazon Dash - Continuing their endless drive in any direction possible for more sales, Amazon recently unveiled the Amazon Dash. Dash is a purpose built bar scanner and audio recorder that allows Amazon Fresh customers to add items to their online grocery cart as soon as they run out by either verbally prompting Dash or scanning them with Dash. The idea is to have the small device handy in the home and ensure capture whenever the shopper runs out or thinks of a required item.
A few thoughts on this concept:
- The Amazon mobile app can work just as well for this function as yet ANOTHER device in the home. How many people have their mobiles on them constantly – everyone. How many people can’t find a TV remote? Everyone. This thing will get lost.
- It’s not clear how this is unit is synchronized to the website/mobile devices, but there will be issues with synching or setup that negate the simplicity of the item. What seems simple to bleeding edge techie lovers is not obvious to someone who uses a purpose built device to scan stuff in the kitchen.
- Support. A support team will have to exist just for this item. Updates because iOS/Android changed their settings? Time for a new version. Does this appliance download new setting automatically? Important back end work that must be handled carefully.
- Batteries. Charging. Another USB adapter? No thanks.
- Kids love beeping and laser lights. It would be fascinating to observe a shopping basket once a toddler gets their hands on an Amazon dash! One or many of everything please?
- Water, sink, food, kitchen clutter, powder rooms. All enemies of the Dash that challenge its ease of use and life as a tool.
- I’m really going to go downstairs, get this thing and scan a package of toilet paper when it runs out? Who is that organized?
- I’m limited to one vendor for my groceries with this tool? What about price checking? What about coupons? What about remembering the quantities of something for a recipe.
On paper this seems like a productive concept, and it may suit a particular audience, but this device seems a bit of an odd option for the sorts of people who might order their groceries from Amazon. Dash represents a creative concept, and it will be interesting to see how the test period. I would personally stick to evernote for my shopping lists. Let’s see how the Millenials approach it!