by Mark Ollig
“Our physical and digital worlds are colliding.”
This is the message in a video from a company called Aisle411.
They are crafting the: “Internet of retail stores.”
Aisle411, based in St. Louis, MO, is working to bring smartphone users the digital sophistication of the Internet’s online window shopping experience, from inside physical retail stores located all across the country.
According to Aisle411, 80 percent of consumers use mobile devices to help them shop.
They also said 90 percent of purchases still occur in brick-and-mortar retail stores.
Shoppers using Aisle411’s software application (app) are able to have an enjoyable and productive in-store shopping experience – using their smartphone.
Yours truly visited the Aisle411 website, and viewed a video they produced explaining some of these shopping benefits.
The company utilizes indoor mapping software, which is a location services platform allowing items inside a store to be easily searchable.
A product’s physical location within the store is immediately shown to customers using a downloadable app from their smartphone.
“You can find products carried in over 200,000 store locations, and indoor map products down to the aisle and section in over 13,000 stores with searchable indoor maps,” Natasha Sanford, marketing manager with Aisle411, said to me during our correspondence.
Aisle411 has special in-store software mapping/platform solutions which can be integrated within an individual retailer’s app.
The retail store technology incorporates business intelligence analytics software used by product producers and the retailer, for analyzing in-store customer behavior.
The analytics include tracking individual aisle sections customers visit how much time they spend in a specific aisle, shelf, or section of the store.
These and other consumer shopping events are logged, and can be used by the store to increase customer satisfaction and product selections.
However; I was more curious about one of their consumer apps called: “Shops.”
In Minnesota, there are 3,272 stores available, or “visible” to the Shops app. Of these, approximately 5.5 percent participate in the indoor store mapping feature, according to Sanford.
Shops is available to download on the iTunes App Store, as well as Google Play Store.
I downloaded the free, 4.4MB (megabyte) Shops by Aisle411 app onto my Android smartphone using this shortened link yours truly created: http://tinyurl.com/ShopsAndroid.
The Shops app for an iPhone/iOS device can be downloaded at: http://tinyurl.com/ShopsiOS.
When I opened Shops, I noted the easy-to-read, clean-looking product search menu on my smartphone screen.
Shops next displayed the heading: “Find products in stores nearby” and showed a text search box, and a microphone icon.
The search menu accepts text or voice input.
Choice options were: “All Stores” or stores “Near” to my location.
Shops clearly displays the geographical location of stores where the product you searched for resides.
Stores participating in the in-store indoor mapping allow the Shops smartphone user to easily view and navigate to a particular product’s exact aisle and shelf location.
Searches can vary from using a product’s brand name, a general description, or a category of product.
In the Shops app, I typed; “vitamin C” in the search window.
The search results displayed a geographical map of my current location, and the nearest individual retail stores having this product.
The store closest to my location was 0.8 miles; this retail store is part of a well-known, national pharmacy chain.
Shops included its street address and location on the screen of my smartphone.
Shops then opened up a Google Map, showing the highlighted roads, and travel directions needed to get to the store.
The store hours and its website link were also displayed, along with a telephone handset icon for calling the store from my smartphone.
Pressing “Directions” showed my present location (blue dot), the mileage distance to the store (green icon), and the driving time to get there.
Appearing on the rightside of this store’s logo image was a green “Indoor Map” icon, which, when pressed, took me “inside” the store.
The store’s interior layout was shown; it was like looking at a well-organized schematic for a new house.
On this easily viewable interior diagram, every aisle, counter, and individual product and service section of the store was illustrated and labeled.
Even the location of the restrooms is clearly visible on this in-store map.
Getting back to finding my vitamin C, the in-store map shown on the screen of my smartphone displays its exact location to be in isle 10, directly across from the pharmacy department, and right behind one of the cough & cold product shelves. It is clearly labeled: “Vitamins.”
An orange circle imprinted with a shopping cart hovers over the specific place on the aisle shelf, where the vitamin C products are located.
I would have no problem going into this drugstore, and finding the vitamin C.
Next, I searched for “radio controlled cars,” and was shown a list of stores with “toys” under their names.
The nearest store to me was a well-known national retail toy store; it displayed the aisle number and section where the radio-control cars would be located: “10e, Toys.”
Pressing the “Indoor Map” icon took me inside this store’s interior. It showed a neatly organized, easy to navigate, and color-coded labeled sectional mapping layout of each department in the store.
Once I saw the in-store navigational mapping on my smartphone screen, I was confident I could walk in (the entrance is labeled, too), go directly to the correct aisle, and find some radio-controlled cars.
And yes, the restroom locations were labeled, as were the checkout counters.
The below links are screen-saves taken while using the Shops app from my smartphone:
“Creating the Internet of Retail Stores” video on Aisle411’s YouTube channel is at: http://tinyurl.com/shopsappvid.
Retail stores interested in Aisle411’s Mobile-Activated Shopping software solutions, can visit: http://aisle411.com/contact.
Their main website is: http://aisle411.com.
I enjoyed using the Shops app; it was fun. Try it out the next time you shop.