About two decades ago, the axiom Customer is King held true. Most of us didn’t have smartphones. We spent hours in malls and retail outlines. Online shopping was in its nascent stages. We used cash. Flashforward today – online retail is almost default. All security, last mile connectivity needs, logistics and other issues are sorted. Today, Customer Experience is king. The industry has even coined a phrase for this transformation – amazon-like experience, or amazon-proofing your business!
What’s in store for retail in the hyper-connected world?
The in-store retail industry is leveraging technology to unlock the world of hyper-customer gratification. There have been success stories of leading retailers such as Best Buy, Price Match and Walmart using expansive store outreach via mini warehouses, with store pick-up discount mechanisms.
Physical retailers are looking at connecting the customers through devices to create an ultra-personalized experience to keep up with the online retail majors. Prevalent technologies like GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Near Field Communications (NFC) provide real-time client data for analytics and marketing, though these do come with potential security issues.
Introducing a sound new retail technology!
Imagine entering a retail store and shopping for your groceries and daily needs without using grocery lists or even stopping at the POS to pay! Sounds unbelievable? The answer lies in sound itself. Thanks to Data-over-Sound (DoS) applications, you can use sound wave technology, which enables your device to communicate using audio signals. So you enter a supermarket and open the retailer DoS app, which starts gathering data about offers, favorite and shopping list items. It also allows you to pay on-the-go. No NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or GPS, which means airtight security and zero breach of data. The DoS app can run on virtually any device – from smartphones to legacy/industrial equipment.
How does Data-over-Sound work?
DoS enables exchange of data via speakers and microphones through sound waves. The data is encoded in an acoustic signal (modulated), streamed, received and demodulated by a “listening” device, and finally decoded to retrieve the original data. By using a range of audio frequencies, programmers can fit more information into less audio and manage the noise.
Its advantages are manifold:
- Offline and simple: No GPS, Wi-Fi, NFC, all you need is just a simple mic and speaker.
- Universal and frictionless: It does not require online connectivity, often a big challenge in remote or restricted areas.
- Inexpensive: The simplicity of the technology makes it extremely cost-effective. There is no need for any fancy hardware or complex software to run this technology.
- Fits well in any device: You can integrate this technology into existing hardware. With a speaker and the mic, you can use it on any device. As a merchant, you can use the existing POS infrastructure with no additional devices. All you need is the software implementation on your device, which makes it an economical, effective and flexible solution.
- Fast yet accurate: It’s easy-to-use yet error-free, speeds up business transactions, and provides real-time information in 2-3 seconds as compared to 5-6 seconds from other payment options.
- A hack-free experience: An offline transaction ensures secure transaction with encrypted data, which could make it popular among users and retailers alike.
- A great analytics tool: It helps analyze customer data, promote branded content and repeat purchases to improve brand loyalty.
- Elevates customer experience: It’s a seamless tool for your customers to engage and interact. Your customers can say goodbye to OTPs and pin codes.
- Low on power, high on connectivity: The infrastructure cost for DoS requires very less power. The device-to-device data transfer happens by combining microphones and speakers in IoT devices.
- No one’s listening to your sound or data: No audio, not even audio metadata, is ever stored or sent from a receiving device for processing. The acoustic connection doesn’t require an internet connection. Thus, it allows for a secure and private mode of data transfer.
Can it be bit intrusive?
The DoS sound wave technology can scale up customer experience and gratification by understanding in-store behaviors and purchasing habits, and targeting customers through personalized deals, offers and promos. Your smartphone accessing various sounds with so much around you, including PA announcements, TV or online streaming platforms. DoS can be used for tracking the consumers’ online and offline activities. You can even get products delivered to your doorstep. Does it seem a bit invasive?
Companies have developed solutions that use inaudible ultrasound signals to identify consumers entering and moving around in the retail stores. Others have focused on watermarking online ads or websites and using smartphone apps to track users across multiple platforms. While some use-cases have been legitimate and transparent, others have been less ethical with intrusive and privacy-invading location-tracking technology. This could lead to cross-device tracking even where users try to keep their activities isolated. However, controlled and careful use of the technology can help mitigate most of the identified problems.
Plug-n-play or wait-n-watch?
As marketers and customers, this seems like a win-win solution, as it is making the life of retailers and consumers alike easier through hassle-free use and secure payments. The technology is fool-proof, cost-effective and can ease operations for merchants and customers. It is also future-proof as this technology creates a digital ecosystem which encourages cashless transactions and economy. This is vital for born-digital enterprises and startups. However, it is still easy to over-estimate the level of maturity of the data transfer over the sound technology as it needs heavy customization. Plus, it will also require underlying skill-sets of various disciplines such as acoustic engineering, IoT, identity/security and UX to bring the perfect rhythm for merchants and customers.
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