Real Time Communications Featured Article

The Future of Mobile Multimedia Sales Assistants

October 22, 2014

A recent report from CFI Group called the Retail Satisfaction Barometer indicates that nearly twice as many consumers (41 percent) this year are using mobile apps while shopping than did last year (21 percent). About half of those who use mobile apps for shopping do so to check product prices at competing retailers. And those in the millennial generation are most likely to use mobile apps while shopping – with 67 percent reporting they do so.




“It is crucial for retailers to keep up with advanced mobile capabilities to maintain high customer satisfaction,” says Terry Redding, vice president of sales and marketing at CFI Group. “With consumers’ demands to use mobile devices as a shopping tool, retailers must know how to connect with them digitally.”

Redding notes that mobile applications are a way retailers can engage with customers any time and any where, and with tailored communications.

Meanwhile, a new report by Capgemini Consulting titled Are You Ready? How to Create an Always-On, Always-Open Shopping Experience, lays out four critical components it says are required for a successful omnichannel strategy. Those four components include inventory visibility, web-ready products, predictive customer analytics, and a fulfillment strategy.

Mobiles sales assistant applications address the inventory visibility component, and can elevate the customer experience by allowing sales associates and customers to check the availability of various goods and services with any NFC-enabled mobile phone or other wireless device at the point of sale.

These kinds of solutions basically work like this: The organization using them affixes NFC tags to products or shelves in the warehouse to identify those items by Electronic Product Code. And they interface that with an organization’s ERP system, to keep both business and consumer abreast of what’s available and where.

NFC, by the way, stands for Near Field Communication. It is a key technology that is being used to enable digital wallets. This technology got a major shot in the arm recently when Apple announced it is using NFC in the iPhone 6 to enable Apple Pay.

In a January NFC Forum blog, forum Chairman Koichi Tagawa writes: “NFC is the only interface, based on standards, that has global compatibility with all key retail media, including coupons, loyalty cards, and credit and debit cards. By gathering all of these capabilities within a person’s phone (something we all carry with us everywhere), NFC puts greater convenience, information, and money-saving opportunities within a shopper’s reach. As 2015 approaches, and many retailers upgrade to EMV POS terminals (which support NFC), those advantages will become more obvious.”

Argos, French supermarket Casino, Harvey Nichols, and U.K. company Made.com are among those using NFC, according to an August Econsultancy LLC blog, which opines that RFID is better positioned in the immediate term and iBeacons are better positioned for the long term to wirelessly enhance the shopping experience.

A Sept. 17 article in The Wall Street Journal discussed how clothing retailer Zara is rolling out RFID throughout its operations. The same article, however, also notes how early RFID efforts by J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart Stores didn’t pan out as planned due to interference.

(It should be noted that while some view NFC and RFID as competitors, the two technologies can be used in tandem.)

As for iBeacons, they are based on Bluetooth Low Energy and can be leveraged to transmit messages to mobile devices that are within a range of about 100 feet from the beacon. They are best used to create location-specific applications such as in-store apps that would give information about the latest products within the store to every customer, according to the piece, and they can also be used to provide context-sensitive information to users to help them make the most of the provided information.

Whatever the wireless technology in play, GENBAND’s KANDY, which is technology agnostic, can be used by organizations and their partners to create mobile multimedia sales assistant applications. Kandy is a Platform as a Service that enables fixed and mobile carriers, OTT providers, enterprises and independent software vendors to advance forward from traditional communications services to more innovative user-centric services. Developers can utilize the Kandy APIs, SDKs and Quick Starts to easily build real-time communications like mobile multimedia sales assistant functionality into their applications and business processes. 




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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