Turnstyle is a startup with a unique vision: to deliver to physical retail stores, a.k.a. bricks-and-mortar, the analytics equivalent of what has been available online for a long time.
The holy grail is providing actionable business insights that enable merchants to deliver value to their customers, and for those customers to derive benefits and higher satisfaction from this effort. Everybody wins.
What do customers want? First, they seek their needs being met by relevant products and services available at the right time, at the best possible price. They also want convenience, as in ease of procurement. Great service, delivered as friendly and timely assistance. Price breaks, whenever promotions are available, without having to ask. Also, some customers may appreciate helpful suggestions of other items they might be interested in. All of this is what makes online retailing so successful.
Analytics for bricks-and-mortar retail
So, how do bricks-and-mortar retailers figure out how to satisfy their customers’ needs in a timely, time-efficient, convenient and price-sensitive way? By learning about their customers’ needs and habits: what attracts their interest, where they spend time in the store, and what information they seek to make informed purchasing decisions, and possibly other aspects of their lifestyle that shape who they are and what they care about. That’s why retailers need information about their customers. And that’s what Turnstyle delivers to them.
Turnstyle Solutions approaches the problem in three different ways:
- by detecting customers’ physical presence at the stores to learn about shopping patterns: how often they come in, what days, at what times, how long they stay. Whenever possible, also learning what they do inside the store: what categories they visit, what attracts their attention
- by providing customers access to free Wi-Fi service at some stores: in exchange, they log in with their social media accounts, voluntarily enriching their personal profiles
- by aggregating customer data across a larger area with multiple merchants, providing deeper insights into personal interests and buying habits, so as to generate actionable information
Participating merchants receive periodic reports detailing findings and actionable insights, enabling them to cater to their clientele with services and offers that speak, not just to customers’ habits and needs, but also to their lifestyles.
A great example is Happy Child, a restaurant and bar on the trendy Queen Street West neighborhood, downtown Toronto. For instance, through Turnstyle, Mr. Fan Zhang, Happy Child’s owner, learned that, in November 2013, 170 of its customers visited local clubs, 250 went to the gym, and 216 come in from the upscale Yorkville neighborhood. With this information in hand, Mr. Zhang decided to launch a promotion catering specifically to customers’ taste and lifestyle: workout tank tops bearing Happy Child’s logo. It was a hit.
Another Queen Street restaurant, Czehoski, chose to hire an 80′s music DJ on Friday evenings when they learned that almost two thirds of its patrons were over 30. This insight was possible after users of Czehoski’s free Wi-Fi service logged in with their Facebook accounts.
RSquared Cafe, a Queen Street coffee shop, provides free Wi-Fi to its clients, and in exchange, enables some personal demographic information to be collected when they log in with their Facebook account.
Rac Boutique, a women’s clothing store based in the Yorkville neighborhood offers fashion and lifestyle accessories. They also benefit from a deeper understanding about their clientele’s demographics and lifestyle, which helps them tailor their offerings accordingly.
In each case, the goal is to enable merchants to better understand their customers, so as to more effectively meet their needs and expectations.
Tackling Personal Privacy
Customer identities are not used to learn of their movements; only their devices’ MAC address is collected, and all behavior data is aggregated.
As we know, a MAC address is simply the unique identifier of a mobile device’s Wi-Fi interface. Given the widespread use of Wi-Fi connectivity on mobile phones and tablets, it can be used as a de-facto identifier of these devices. Though by themselves MAC addresses are not related to any personally identifiable information, they can complement information collected by other means.
Naturally, the emphasis on building richer customer profiles raises personal privacy concerns. As it has been observed by privacy advocates, time and location may enable inferences about a person’s habits or needs. For example, it could be possible to infer that somebody has a medical condition if someone were to monitor visits to clinics or specific doctors’ offices. Given such potential, it’s very important for providers of customer behavior analytics to clearly and transparently state the rules they abide by for handling this data.
Companies covering new ground, with innovative technologies that may have societal impact beyond their intended target, clearly see the need for proactively and transparently subscribing to a code of ethics that unambiguously reassures the public. For instance, Turnstyle’s adherence to the Future of Privacy Forum guidelines is the correct approach by a company concerned about their social responsibility over issues of personal privacy.
This is worth noting: Turnstyle has set up a “do not track” option on their website, that allows any concerned user to explicitly opt-out of future data collections. In addition any past history that may have been collected about them is deleted.
As societies grapple with the implications of applying innovative new technologies, this is clearly a good approach for balancing the benefits of innovation with potentially undesirable societal implications.
Looking at the future
Retail has always been a competitive battleground. The shift to online retail by many consumers will continue to weigh heavily on merchants large and small, given the convenience of online shopping.
As we know, bricks-and-mortar retail offsets online shopping with unique advantages of its own. Among them: the ability to touch and try the items, or simply to see them under different lights. The immediacy of the purchase, as customers can take the items home right now! The ability to be assisted in person by a knowledgeable salesperson, or the ability to enjoy a product or service in a welcoming environment (think your favorite restaurant).
All of these advantages can be sharpened and emphasized when merchants learn what really matters to their customers, what their cultural and/or personal preferences are, what would increase the positive attributes of that next customer experience. That’s precisely what innovative technologies such as location-based analytics provide.
Behind the scenes
Navizon’s hardware-based products automatically compile the raw data that makes these insights possible. Navizon I.T.S. (Indoor Triangulation System) detects the Wi-Fi signals emitted by devices like smart phones and tablets, triangulating their location as they move around a store, or their proximity to a desired spot, or simply counting their numbers. Neither direct connectivity to Navizon I.T.S. nor installation of mobile apps are required. Notably, no personally identifiable information is collected from anyone.