More than ever before, success depends on being able to offer a customer experience that is unique and more attractive than the competition. An experience that empowers customers so that they can decide the best way to interact with a service provider, e.g., a store, a bank branch, a public office, or a hospital.
For some time, several giants in the mobile communications industry have invested heavily in near field communication (NFC). The thinking has been to try and hone in on the customer’s location, to enable us to “tap and share” content and make payments. At my company Qmatic, we have looked at this technology to understand if and how it could be used to enhance the experience for a customer taking a journey in the physical world. The conclusion? We can’t really see a strong case for it.
We have also embarked on projects, including the use of RFID and QR codes, again with the same ambition to understand how these technologies could be integrated with our Customer Journey Management software to enhance the end-users’ experience of a service provider and their brand. Here, QR codes have been the most promising technology and we have clients using it for promotion and to allow their customers to get location based access to service in for example a mobile phone.
But then something fundamentally important happens. And as many great things in life it doesn’t happen with a big bang – along comes Apple iOS 7 with, at its core, iBeacons. iBeacons is a locating system, one that runs on something called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). With BLE, your phone can announce its presence to other devices in range in an extremely power-efficient way.
In December last year, Apple themselves switched on iBeacons. The technology allows your iPhone to provide a location-aware shopping experience whenever you walk into any Apple Store in the US. It does this by communicating with tiny, low-power Bluetooth transmitters hidden above shelves and under product display tables.
There is a tremendous amount of energy in the tech world surrounding little chips in little purpose-built internet-connected devices that do little but helpful things. And there is also a tremendous amount of energy going into creating back-office infrastructure, ad market place services and Content Management Solutions for Beacons. Estimote and Qualcomm, with its Gimbal, are two examples of companies being early out of the starting blocks.
At Qmatic, we early on identified a vital gap in all of the ideas on how the Beacon technology could be used. When almost all of the things written so far has been on using Beacons as a communication device and a solution to create smarter wayfinding, we see Beacons as a very promising technology for customers to get access to service. Service provided by human beings.
Beacons combined with a mobile app having the capabilities to provide service alternatives for end-customers can significantly improve service and experiences. The solution also has great potential in increasing sales, reducing cost and improving the perception of a service provider’s brand.
For me, it is clear that “The Internet of Things” will change the way we go about life. And it’s is equally clear that when embracing a new technology such as Beacons, it is important to look at it from a perspective on how it can provide tangible benefits to the end-customer. Using location based features and connecting it to mobile service applications is a great way of enhancing the customer journey and ultimate the customer experience.
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