BestFit Mobile, Shelfbucks in iBeacon pilots with major retailers
BestFit Mobile and Shelfbucks, two Austin, Texas-based startups, are piloting their iBeacon-based mobile shopping technology with major U.S. retailers, according to announcements from the companies. A Health Mart pharmacy in Austin is the venue for the first of the pilots to be publicly announced.
Using iBeacons and Bluetooth Low Energy communications links, BestFit Mobile has developed a mobile POS solution which enables sales associates to use their tablets to cross-sell and up-sell products to customers.
"Our software sends a welcome message to customers who've downloaded the retailer's mobile app, when they enter a store," BestFit Mobile President Bret Cunningham said. "An associate can see the new arrival on their tablet, with a profile picture, customer ID, customer name and the length of time they've been a customer."
Customers can collect product information and reviews by placing their phone near a BLE beacon, and add products to the digital basket on their app, Cunningham said. Associates can see on their tablets what products the customer has looked at, and, if the customer requests help, can locate the customer and recommend similar products. This is done by swiping the products the customer likes into the digital basket on the customer's device.
According to Cunningham, using iBeacon-based mPOS software helps retailers combat the phenomenon of showrooming, where consumers visit stores and then use their smartphones to comparison-shop for better-priced products at other bricks-and-mortar retailers or at online merchants. "Using our software, a retailer can improve conversion rates among shoppers by sending offers and recommendations to their smartphones," he said.
BestFit's technology integrates with a retailer's POS system, so that associates can take card payments from customers using a card-reader plugged into an iPad, Cunningham said. Alternatively, if the customer has associated their credit card number with the retailer's mobile app, they can make a payment direct from their smartphone.
During the first quarter of 2014, BestFit is rolling out its platform to a number of tier-one U.S. retailers either for testing in their technology labs or for in-store pilots, Cunningham said. "Digital baskets resonate with high-end retailers, as they don't want their customers to have to push carts loaded with products around the store," he said. "Using our technology, the merchandise is on display, but the actual product the customer wants to buy is stored at the back, and an employee will go and fetch it once the customer has paid."
Shelfbucks was founded by its CEO Erik McMillan, who had previously founded BestFit and remains chairman of BestFit. The company supplies retailers with beacons to place on their store shelves.
"Our beacons support iBeacon, BLE and NFC communications technologies," McMillan said. "This means that we can work with all the mobile device platforms including iOS, Android and Windows."
A shopper browsing a product area interacts with the Shelfbucks beacon using a smartphone, and can download information, coupons or other real-time offers on nearby products for immediate redemption.
"Our system works with every mobile device manufactured in the last three years," McMillan said. "Our goal is to make it easy for shoppers to go into stores, wave their phone at one of our beacons and get the best deals."
Shelfbucks supplies retailers with iBeacon code to add to their mobile shopping apps, along with a digital dashboard that shows the associates what customers are looking at, according to McMillan. "We provide support for retailers who want to install beacons in their stores, including signage, marketing information, training and analytics," he said. "With our technology, a retailer can see how many consumers have received offers on their smartphones and how many have bought products. After reviewing the conversion rate, the retailer can change its offers, if necessary."
Within the next four months, Shelfbucks will go live with a number of the biggest U.S. retailers, Macmillan said.
On February 19, Shelfbucks launched a pilot of its beacon technology with Austin, Texas-based Tarrytown Pharmacy, one of 3,500 stores in the Health Mart national pharmacy chain. Shelfbucks beacons have been installed on store shelves throughout the pharmacy, enabling smartphone users to receive real-time offers and coupons on nearby products via the retailer's app. Shoppers can then immediately redeem their special offers at the cashier, Shelfbucks said.