Infosys Wants to Make the Store a Web Page

NEW YORK–So much goes on inside a store that marketers don’t know about. Sure, they know what products people purchase, but the physical retail environment just doesn’t lend itself to measurable information about how much time people spend looking at a display, what products they considered buying but didn’t, or which ones they simply ignored.

On the Web of course, that information is considerably easier to track.

Enter Infosys (NASDAQ: INFY), an India-based IT services and consulting firm hoping to provide a pipeline that will deliver highly nuanced information about shopper behavior to retailers and consumer-packaged goods (CPG) companies.

Today Infosys plans to unveil ShoppingTrip 360, a system of wireless sensors that retailers place throughout their stores to monitor things like traffic flow and report on shoppers’ interests. Infosys’ immodest goal is to generate the same quantifiable insights that are inherent in e-commerce from brick-and-mortar retailers.

“We have attempted to make the store Web-like,” Sandeep Dadlani, Infosys’ global head of sales, marketing and innovation, told InternetNews.com. “By making the store aware, we are creating the Internet for the physical world.”

Infosys has long partnered with retailers and CPG companies to improve supply chain management and other logistical operations, dabbling in technologies such as RFID. But RFID tags do a better job of tracking merchandise than tracking people, and the latter is what marketers are keen to know more about.

“For the first time they’ve challenged us to look at what happens inside the store,” Dadlani said.

For an offline retail environment to become “aware,” Infosys will dispatch a technical team to place wireless sensors throughout the store — on shelves, end-caps, displays, shopping carts, etc.

A heat map of shopper traffic

Once the network is in place, ShoppingTrip 360 delivers retailers and CPG companies reporting about what’s going on inside the store, such as a heat map of shopper traffic.

No sensors are embedded in the products themselves, but since they are placed on the shelves, the system can report when the stock is getting low and even relay alerts about “frontage” — how much of the product is sitting forward on the shelf where it is more likely to be seen by shoppers.

Infosys will install ShoppingTrip 360 for free, and charge a fee for hosting the service and providing the reporting. Dadlani said there will be multiple subscription options to provide reporting with varying levels of detail.

The benefits to retailers and CPG companies seem plain enough. The sensors provide on-shelf inventory alerts, and stores can use the traffic maps to manage lighting and energy costs. Product makers can glean insights into which displays are drawing attention and which ones are duds.

But there’s a consumer tie-in as well. The release of ShoppingTrip 360 includes a mobile application consumers can install by texting a short code to Infosys.

Next page: An in-store concierge

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An in-store concierge

Infosys envisions the app serving as an in-store concierge, a central portal where people can organize their shopping lists, retrieve recipes and receive notices or coupons for products.

So when that shopping cart turns down the toiletries aisle in the supermarket, ShoppingTrip 360 will know it, and might update that consumer’s profile with a coupon for Crest toothpaste, for example.

In a nod to the privacy issues that inevitably arise a with any technology that tracks people’s movements, Infosys bills the system as completely opt-in. First, consumers have to install the application onto their phones. Second, when entering a retailer that uses the system, the shopper would have to open the app and enter a code found on the sensor-enabled shopping cart or basket.

At that point, the shopper’s profile would be populated with information about that store, and ShoppingTrip 360 would continue to update it as the shopper moves around the store.

But Infosys has set up the system so the consumer must initiate all interactions. On the back end, Infosys would provide reporting on the consumer’s activities to its retail and CPG clients. Dadlani assured that the phone will never beep with alerts or text messages from ShoppingTrip 360.

So for the shopper to realize that the toothpaste coupon is available, she would have to hit the refresh button in the mobile app.

Since the information is delivered to the phone via the Infosys sensors, the system does not rely on the emerging location-based technology just beginning to infiltrate mobile devices.

A long deferred dream

In limited preliminary trials, Dadlani boasted that the service delivered what for CPG companies has been a long-deferred dream.

“They are seeing this as the only way to communicate with the shopper at the moment of truth,” he said.

But the consumer leg of the service will have to wait. Infosys is not naming any of its launch partners as it introduces ShoppingTrip 360. The reason for the silence, Dadlani explained, is that Infosys wants to build a solid base of retail and CPG partners before it begins aggressively marketing the system to consumers.

Once that critical mass is obtained, Infosys expects the promotion of the product to proceed through the same channels that retail marketers communicate with their customers, such as in-store signage, direct mail and e-mail blasts to members of a store’s loyalty program.

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