Back in June, we blogged about companies using in-store Wi-Fi to track customers' progress in the store and also to connect with their phones while they're in the store. The big question in that blog post was how to overcome shoppers' privacy concerns and reduce the feeling of being spammed.
As Neal Ungerleider of Fast Company reports, a new startup called Swarm is connecting with in-store customers' phones not only to track their movements, but also to send them coupons and (here's the most interesting part) spot customers who are price checking with online retailers like Amazon and send them special discounts.
This practice is offering retailers a targeted way of overcoming showrooming -- something we've blogged about a lot.
"Swarm is part of a wave of new firms embracing the discovery economy and using smartphones to conduct deep analysis of customers," Ungerleider writes. "The company's primary product is a cloud-based mobile web platform that integrates into a store's public Wi-Fi network; retailers are then given access to extensive analytics via a dashboard. Analytics include in-store web traffic information, which section of a store a user is shopping in, and information on which items customers are price-checking or researching."
The discounts, of course, are the incentive enabling retailers to sidestep shoppers' privacy concerns and their aversion to spam. "In exchange, customers are given real-time coupons, discounts, promotions, and loyalty points via their web browser," Ungerleider adds. "Via the company's home page, Swarm offers HTML5 toolbars that mimic the performance of a standalone app while users enjoy the store's complimentary Wi-Fi."
Take-home message: This a very clever use of Wi-Fi and mobile technology in the in-store space that retailers of all types should pay attention to.