According to a new ABI Research report, smartphones will change the face of retail technologies and shopping, enabling a whole new converging ecosystem to emerge. The report considers the evolving space of retail technology, taking the smartphone as a central component. Over 100 forecast tables in ABI's full report point to in-store analytics, indoor location, smartphone retail applications, digital signage & kiosks, POS, RFID, small cells, Wi-Fi, NFC, retail M2M, and gift cards as keys to this new market.
Senior analyst Patrick Connolly comments, "Smartphones will completely revolutionize the existing analytics, CRM, digital signage, loyalty and POS markets, not to mention opening up a whole new medium for retailers to sell advertising to brands. Apple's latest "iBeacon" trademark filing likewise lists some of these associated attributes.
Connolly further stated that "Major grocery stores generate as much as 20% of total revenue from standard in-store branded advertising today. Imagine the potential of personalized in-aisle advertising"
One area of strong growth is retail analytics, where ABI Research has forecast a tenfold increase by 2018, as the market moves from traditional people counting to in-store technologies. Looking at the regional splits, it is clear that it is a worldwide opportunity, with BRIC countries particularly aggressive in adopting these technologies.
Practice director, Dominique Bonte added that "Smartphones create a platform on which to unite the variety of different technologies deployed in-store. This creates huge potential to significantly improve the customer experience as well as streamline existing pain points such as staff efficiency, product discovery, queue management, coupon redemption, linked loyalty programs, and closing the redemption loop on offers/advertising."
In a related report published this morning in India, they state that Apple is likely to equip its retail stores with transmitters that connect to visitors' iPhones and provide messages based on the products of their interest.
The iBeacon transmitter system has been designed to enhance the shopping experience of people who visit the store. The transmitters would connect to a user's iPhone and send messages as the user takes a look around products in the store, offering more product information or invitation to workshops. To some degree this is already occurring. When waiting in an Apple Store for a Genius Bar appointment, customers can be notified that they're next while shopping for other products.
On the real world downside, not every is all that thrilled with such services. The Indian report notes that retailers such as "Nordstrom experimented with such a system before bringing in the wrath of customers who discovered they were being tracked as they wandered through the store." Yet in the end, I'm sure that they'll be an off-switch in Apple's iOS settings when this feature is officially introduced.