The Future of Retail has a Pulse

Padraid O'Brien, retail solutions manager, VisionID
Padraid O'Brien, retail solutions manager, VisionID

Mobile technology and beacons are set to transform how consumers shop in-store. Retail technology company VisionID is leading the charge, offering companies of all sizes the ability to understand their customers' spending habits like never before. By Doug Whelan



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16 June 2016

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In the 2002 science fiction film Minority Report, a future is depicted in which advertising is targeted at consumers by name through retinal scans that can identify an individual and recall their spending habits the moment they enter a store. In a pre-social media world, it was a startling concept but now, less than 15 years later, this kind of marketing is becoming a reality. (Even if the retinal scans are still the realm of science fiction authors…for now).

It’s part of VisionID’s new retail solutions strategy, and is aimed at clients ranging in size from small chains up to multinational corporations. Padraic O’Brien, retail solutions manager, describes it as a range of products that cater to clients of different sizes, while the heart of it is location-based software, beacons (instore devices that communicate with customers’ mobile phones) and analytics to deliver services applicable to each individual company’s needs.

“An airport and a retailer have completely different requirements when it comes to analysing visitors’ data,” O’Brien explains. “There are lots of companies out there providing analytics, but we’ve found that they’re not really innovating. All companies are at different stages, and so won’t want the same thing at the same time. What they need is a ‘security blanket’ in knowing that the app is future proof. In short, it will grow with the company.”

Pulsate 2016 Logo
VisionID’s software partnership with Pulsate provides a platform that plugs directly into existing apps, providing retailers with a set of tools that allows them to understand users’ behaviour while using that app. “What pages they’re looking at,” O’Brien says, “what products, what buttons they’re tapping and what they’re lingering on. It’s basically allowing what they’re interested in to be understood and analysed. Using that information, they can then target their customers as smaller groups.

“We give retailers access to a cloud platform,” O’Brien continues, “which they can log into to set up segments and target users based on any existing information.” This data, provided on an opt-in basis by customers, will offer insight into the products consumers are buying – or not buying.

“Let’s say we want to look at this group of people that have built up 10,000 loyalty points, have spent a lifetime amount of €10,000 and have purchased Prada shoes in the past,” O’Brien continues. “With Pulsate you can set that up, and create that group. You might end up with a group of 150 customers with those criteria.

“Using this data, we leverage Pulsate’s platform mixed with Zebra bluetooth beacons to create in-store experiences with push notifications to this group’s mobile devices as they browse.

“’Hi Angela,'” O’Brien says, mimicking the app. “‘Welcome back to our store. Would you like to see special offers on

Padraid O’Brien agrees that the technology is like something out of the aforementioned science fiction movie. “Companies think it’s great to have all this information,” he says, “but it might scare their customers too! At the end of the day it’s a value exchange that both sides can benefit from.

“Customers will always have to opt in,” he adds. “They will give permission for the app to access their location and their data. There is a legal obligation to keep customers informed of what you’re doing with their data, so it’s important to remind them, maybe by saying ‘here are three ways you can benefit from allowing us to access your data and send notifications to you.’”

Prior Success
VisionID has combined the technology alongside Pulsate’s platform, which was founded three years ago by Patrick Leddy. Leddy had already seen success in the mobile app market with a previous company, but was often frustrated at how many third-party apps he worked with that lacked the same features.

He believed he could do a better job and set about creating Pulsate. VisionID subsequently teamed up with Pulsate, and the aim is to allow retail in Ireland to catch up with other industries that have embraced the potentials of online technology.

“Retail is quite far behind in harnessing mobile marketing,” O’Brien says in closing. “There’s a lot of catching up to do in comparison to airlines, banks, hospitality and so on. It’s a big step, and a big change in approach, but the way things are going, they need to get involved now. It will hurt in the long run otherwise.”




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