Bringing an Online Experience to the Offline World (VIDEO)

Few things have changed the way we behave as a culture over the past several decades as dramatically as mobile devices. Now nearly ubiquitous, Internet-connected mobile devices (smartphones in particular) conveniently place the entire world in our pockets, not only keeping us connected with our family, friends and peers, but keeping us connected to the world at large and the information and experiences it has to offer.

One thing that hasn’t changed much, though, despite conventional wisdom, is how we shop. While e-commerce has certainly created substantial change, 90% of retail commerce continues to occur in a physical store, where consumers don’t enjoy the level of personalization they’ve come to expect, and brands and retailers can’t benefit from what they’ve come to learn about their customers. But it looks like that may be about to change.

This week, at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jayant Ramchandani, Chief Operating Officer of Novitaz. Novitaz is in the process of building a platform that will extend an the benefits of online shopping to the physical world. The platform leverages two critical pieces of technology: RFID & Smartphones. By embedding active RFID technology into “plastic” (loyalty program cards, gift cards, or even credit cards), retail outlets and associated brands can be aware of when a customer enters the physical store and respond by presenting that customer with customized offers delivered directly to their cell phone. They can then identify which offers are of interest to them (or not), and receive more detailed information and discounts on the products they like. I’ll let Jayant tell you more:

I have to say, I love the multi-directional, ecosystem aspect of this approach. Physical retailers benefit from the customer awareness they’ve never been able to maintain in the past (Who are their most loyal customers? How do physical browsing patterns impact purchasing behavior?) , brands are able to promote their goods in a personalized way at a time in the sales cycle when the customer has exhibited explicit intent, both stores and brands learn a great deal more about their customers in the process (a level of real-time market research they’ve never had before), and customers have an altogether more positive shopping experience.

As Jayant mentioned in this video, the Novitaz platform is kicking off with a pilot in the Silicon Valley area in Q1 of 2011. I’m sure we’ll all be watching closely to see how RFID and mobile platforms change market research in practice.

About Joshua Hoffman

Joshua Hoffman is Technology Specialist at Microsoft and a frequent contributor to Research Access.

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