Yesterday (Aug.12), TechCrunch reported on VMBeacons (short for Visual Merchandising Beacons), mannequins that send product/purchase info for the clothes they're displaying to shoppers' phones using BLE/iBeacon technology. (See above photo.)
This technology truly takes in-store (well, in-front-of store) online, because the consumer can buy (or consider buying) something without setting foot in the store. I sat down with a couple members of our R&D team (Evan Bashir and Garett Rogers), to get their take on VMBeacons.
What are the advantages of VMBeacons for a) the consumer and b) the retailer?
Evan: Consumers no longer have to deal with pushy salespeople; they’re free to browse and bookmark what they see outside the shop, and inside. Retailers now have a chance to retain customers outside of store hours. If someone walking past a store at night can browse products in the window/store (and bookmark/buy them), street retail will be open 24/7.
VMBeacons can bring static product displays to life and offer storefront sales opportunities 24/7.
Garett: For consumers, this technology is more convenient and less unsightly than QR codes -- but it serves the same purpose. It's a convenient way to get more information about products they see. For retailers, it's an interesting medium to showcase your products in a new way, or even tell stories about them. It could bring life to those static objects, and potentially entice people into purchasing. It's about supercharging your store and, as Evan mentioned, giving it a 24/7 selling capability to pedestrians.
Any risks or weaknesses to VMBeacons? (I would think if they were eventually EVERYWHERE, they could become annoying and people would simply tune them out.)
Evan: I think they need to be everywhere to be considered a useful technology. QR codes were tested by some, but they definitely did not introduce an advertising revolution. Retailer mass adoption is necessary for people to follow suit.
Beacon technology is like Shazam: It's there for those who seek it out.
Garett: Beacon technology doesn't have to be automatic. In the case of mannequins, it's an on-demand kind of experience. It's almost like using Shazam to find out what song is playing -- it doesn't bother you to tell you about every song you happen to hear.
Is there a significant opportunity here for an established online vendor (like Amazon, for instance) that could "power" third-party retailers' VMBeacons, providing the back-end info and e-commerce connectivity to said retailers?
Evan: Absolutely. The company would have to retain control over the e-commerce portion of transactions in order to create a seamless flow, however.
Garett: I agree.