Location Intelligence: A Bridge That Connects Digital & Physical Worlds

25th Apr 2017

The digital world has transformed our way of living. From shopping to fashion, social media to entertainment, news to apps – we find ourselves in a position where it is difficult to imagine even a single day without the internet or digital devices (unless you go on a sabbatical). Smartphones made us embrace digital experiences. Virtual reality, augmented reality, 360-degree videos, and products like Playstation, Magic Leap, and Oculus Rift are only furthering it.

Location Intelligence

Today, we are inordinately influenced by the digital world. Millennials and generation-z are ‘digital natives’; they are completely reliant on smartphones, computers and other digital products to function in their daily lives.

Digital is Changing our Interaction With the Physical World

Physical spaces like malls, department stores, office spaces, and airports came into existence in the 20th Century. They were built and targeted for baby boomers and the silent generation, which is why millennials and generation z are experiencing a disconnect with these buildings.

For example, when generation z and millennials shop on e-commerce websites, they have instant access to product information, smart product suggestions based on their previous interaction and purchase history, quick customer support (sometimes messenger bots), custom requests, digital transactions, door delivery request and so on. But when they go to a physical store, they don’t get a similar experience; there is a mismatch of experience expectation. This is a huge challenge for physical businesses.

Changing Customer Expectations

The rise of online shopping and social media have led to a shift in customer expectations. They expect personalized experiences; they want more options and greater control over how they navigate through physical buildings. Unfortunately, their expectations are not being met by physical spaces.

When people go to a physical store, they are not recognized by the staff unless they are a frequent customer. Irrespective of their loyalty tier, until they reach the point of sale and share their phone number or membership ID, they don’t get any personalized offers or benefits (which they get in online stores). Access to product information is limited to the knowledge of the staff. All these factors are disappointing a generation of savvy customers and keeping them disengaged at physical spaces. This situation is not peculiar to retail. The same story goes on at almost all large physical venues. Consequently, we see a gap forming between the physical and the digital world.

Redefine the Experience at Physical Spaces

The experience of a physical building needs to be rethought for generation-z and millennials. They thrive on digital every day at work and in every moment of their personal life. Their expectations are on the rise.  When E-commerce gives them access to instant information, provides them with a personal and contextual experience, it is but natural to expect a similar experience from  physical spaces. Come to think of it – it is actually unfair to provide a stale experience at a mall to a customer who is digitally driven, who has become normalized to the experiences of the virtual world.

From trying on clothes to asking for opinions – a lot of interactions that happen in the physical world can be improved with the use of technology. It is true that physical business units like hotels, malls, airports have a lot of catching up to do. But by leveraging the right technologies, they can translate the same online experience into their physical businesses

Bridging the Gap

Human beings are inherently social. While people have come to depend a lot on digital devices, they still crave for social interaction in physical spaces. Given a choice, they’d prefer interacting with sales staff over automated robots. That is why, while it is important to bridge the widening gap between the digital and the physical, one must remember that digital will not replace physical. Digital will only embrace physical.

Physical businesses need to use technology to level the playing field with their online competitors but they should do it in a way that does not compromise the social experience. Innovative technologies such as WiFi, beacon and mobile apps lets you do just that. They not only cater to changing customer experiences but also enhance the social experience. They collect the digital fingerprints that visitors walking in and out of buildings leave behind and then analyse them to personalize their experience.

A well designed mobile app or a captive portal experience can be used to create contextual experiences even before a visitor sets foot inside the building and even after he exits it. Besides elevating the customer experience, location intelligence can also be tremendously valuable for understanding the needs of customers and addressing them. WiFi-based analytics tools can analyze traffic patterns in physical spaces and provide management with critical data such as first time versus repeat visitors, customer loyalty, dwell times, walking paths, outside traffic flow, conversion rates, etc. By using actionable location intelligence, brick and mortar buildings can finally begin to bridge the gap between the physical and digital customer experiences.

Our SaaS tool Proximity MX reimagines location based services by combining the power of Location Intelligence, Actionable Insights and Mobile Engagement.

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