My brother had an odd experience last Saturday evening. He got into his car and before even starting it, his iPhone spoke up and told him that he was 10 minutes from his destination. The funny thing, he had not asked for directions anywhere, or in anyway indicated where he was going. The freaky thing, the iPhone was right in the location it had guessed he was going. This can sometimes weird you out, and sometimes amaze you. The technology in iOS 9 can determine patterns and habits and make suggestions based on those. In my brother’s case, he was headed over to our parents’ house for dinner. This is a typical thing for him on a Saturday evening, and iOS had figured out the behavior. The Suggested Apps feature, as Apple calls it, first appeared in iOS 8, but has become more mature and useful in the latest version. You may notice icons in the lower left corner of your phone’s lock screen at what seems like odd times. Walk around Target, for example, and you will see the Target app appear.
The possibilities for this technology are endless. For years, I have wondered about how we could get digital signage all over a store. The infrastructure costs seemed to be huge. Also, the maintenance and upkeep of the signs would get so expensive, it would be difficult to show a return on investment. Of course the problem was that I was not thinking outside of the box. Finally, iOS 9 allowed me to do that and ask: What if people brought their own digital signs and allowed us to use them for our purposes? Suddenly, we have excellent access to customers, at very little upfront cost to ourselves.
Apple has already put the technology into the phone to determine locations and habits of customers. Now we need to develop apps that allow us to take advantage of the technology. If an app is installed on a customer’s phone, then we already have some information on that customer, as they have created an account with the app. We should be tracking information about their purchases and habits. By installing access points in our stores we can get a good idea of where in the store the customer is. We can use all this information to direct customers to products we are trying to sell.
Imagine that a customer is walking through your grocery store. Apple takes care of offering the app for the customer. Your app can then send a notification letting the customer know that using the app will be beneficial for them. The customer walks into the wine aisle, and based on your wireless access points, the app knows where the customer is. Based on your data, you also know that the customer usually purchases a bottle of red wine every week. You can now direct that customer to a specific type of red wine that you are looking to sell. You have the option of offering a special price, or simply giving them information about the specific wine you want them to purchase. The possibilities are enormous once you start to think creatively. We know that brands already pay for shelf space and location. Why would they not be willing to pay to show up on a customer’s phone when they are near the product?
As technology changes, integrators need to be aware and be creative in how they put them to use. If you read what I just described, and your first thought is that the iPhone is going to be a threat to your business, you are not adapting quickly enough. Rather, you need to look at this as an amazing opportunity. Almost everything I just described is service-based rather than product-based. And service is the only place integrators can be making money; product sales are not going to provide the type of margins needed to stay in business. Hopefully, these changes in technology excite you and get you thinking of new ways to provide value to your customers. Just don’t get complacent — because not only are the customers bringing their own digital signs in their pockets, but with the launch of the Apple Watch, they may also soon be wearing them on their wrists as well.