- 25th Jul 2016


Do you remember visiting your neighborhood ice cream parlor or grocery store as a child? The store guy probably greeted you by name and knew your favorite flavor of ice cream even before you asked for it. That is pretty much the closest we can get to real customer delight.

But in today’s age of mega chain stores, it is no longer feasible for you to offer this to your customers. E-commerce seems to take the anonymity a notch higher because customers are basically interacting with you through a computer screen.

The irony, however, is that online businesses actually do a much better job of ‘knowing’ their customers, thanks to the wealth of information that they can tap while their customers shop. Not only do they have the name, contact information and purchase history of every customer; they also have tremendous insights into their shopping behavior. Which products did they click on? What sections did they visit and how much time did they spend there? Etc.

This puts brick and mortar stores at a major disadvantage. On one hand, they need to make significant investments into setting up stores at convenient locations, ensuring they have pleasing architecture and friendly sales personnel etc.

And despite the fact their customers are actually, physically, present in the store, they don’t even have a fraction of customer insights that online stores have. Is he a ‘regular’? What brands does he love? Is he a sports enthusiast? What did he buy the last time he was here? There’s no easy way to find out. This puts the business at a severe handicap when it comes to any form of personalization, whether in the form of relevant offers or suggestions for products the customer may appreciate.

With E-commerce severely eating into revenues of brick and mortar stores, maintaining status quo is not an acceptable option. The only answer is to leverage the tremendous power of technology, combining the inherent advantages of a physical store with the power of digital.

For a while, iBeacons seemed to be the popular solution to tackle this. But while it sounds good on paper, the truth is that iBeacon-led solutions have severe limitations that make it unviable in practice. First is the cost factor. An iBeacon based solution means investments not just in the hardware (iBeacons) but also in separate network infrastructure, specialized personnel etc.

But let’s leave cost aside for a minute. For the iBeacons to ‘read’ a device, it has to be Bluetooth enabled and that Bluetooth has to be turned on. On top of this, the device must have the store’s native app installed on it. This is the often the biggest hurdle. Customers interact with hundreds of brands regularly, and they are very unlikely to download apps for all of these brands. With all these filters, the actual engagement potential for iBeacons drops down drastically, to about 10 percent of customers that walk in.

And after all this, the business only gets access to the Mac ID of the customer’s device with no access to any other personal information, whether name of phone number or other demographics. This severely limits the quality of customer engagement that iBeacons enable.

Why Proximity MX works

Our latest invention (patent pending), Proximity MX, effectively overcomes most of the limitations of iBeacons. Some of its key features are:

  • Works with only Wi-fi on any device. No Bluetooth required.
  • Customers not required to download any application. Engagement through a captive portal.
  • For the business, no extra investment needed for hardware or networking, since Proximity MX works with the existing Access Points and Wi-fi infrastructure.
  • Businesses can gather much richer information such as name, phone number, loyalty etc. (based on what they put on the home page)

When customers enter the physical location and click on the store’s SSID to access free Wi-fi, they are prompted to submit their credentials. With this information, the business can glean a variety of details about the person, by integrating this data with the backend systems. This gives sufficient information for the business to determine the engagement model for each person.

The possibilities are endless

If we were to look at this in a retail context, consider this example. Let’s say a Ms. Jane Doe enters your clothing store. She submits her credentials, maybe her name and loyalty card number, to get Wi-fi access. Using this information and linking it back to your database, you have a wealth of information about this customer. Maybe she regularly shops for clothes for girls in the 5-7 age-group and her most preferred brand is GAP. When she last visited the store, she spent 30 minutes in the ladies sportswear section. With this level of detail, it is possible to offer her customized, targeted communication that can help you up-sell significantly.

Think about it from a hospitality point of view, maybe a global restaurant chain. Let’s say you have a customer who is a regular at your Bangalore outlet, and he visits your restaurant in London. The minute the person walks in, Proximity MX enables you to ‘recognize’ the customer – what he usually orders, how regularly he visits etc. This unprecedented level of detail gives you all the ammunition you need to create immense customer delight.

There are plenty of such use cases across verticals, whether healthcare, hospitality, education or others.

How to get started

Configuration and implementation of Proximity MX solution is very simple from an IT standpoint.  Also, we support certain Wi-fi networks such as Meraki, in which case, it’s even simpler.

Next, you are required to set up your captive portal and configure the rules (such as when the communication goes to your customer etc.). Our portal building tools are so simple to use that you won’t need an HTML guru to do this. And then you’re all set!

What to know more?