Attention shoppers: You may be studied
By Paul Krill
(IDG) -- Brick-and-mortar shoppers already monitored for security reasons will be studied anonymously for their shopping habits through a software platform that aims to help retailers improve customer service.
Arlington, Virginia-based Brickstream on Monday launched its Brickstream System, which links the company's software to computer hardware and in-store cameras in an effort to examine in-store browsing and buying behaviors.
Through software algorithms, the company's applications analyze factors including how long customers wait in line, how many customers abandon a line, placement of self-service kiosks, what the are busiest parts of the store, paths through the store, and what customers are doing after interacting with a display. Also tracked are how quickly employees are serving customers and whether in-store promotions are attracting enough attention.
Data, which can be produced in real-time, can be integrated with other applications, such as CRM systems. The applications function with a Web interface.
"Brickstream is setting the standard for a new generation of customer intelligence solutions focused strictly on brick-and-mortar-type companies," said Amir Hudda, Brickstream president and CEO.
Brickstream is looking to help retailers, consumer packaged goods manufacturers, and banks improve the in-store experience, Hudda said. "When you look at the brick-and-mortar stores, CRM or measuring and managing customer experience is even more critical [than with online e-tailers] because over 90 percent of all shopping continues to be within the four walls of a store," he said.
Retailers need a bigger picture of customer behaviors than just transaction data, according to Brickstream.
An analyst said Brickstream's technology can help improve retail service.
"I think it's useful to improve customer service, to give retailers information to improve the merchandising effectiveness of the store," said analyst Greg Girard, vice president of retail application strategies at AMR Research, in Boston. The software gives retailers analytical visibility into aggregate customer behavior, he said.
But Girard added, "There will be privacy issues raised," as far as having cameras study customer behavior.
"I think those [issues] are manageable," since the technology is not focused on individuals, but on aggregate patterns, Girard said.
"Anyway, people are already photographed in stores," for security reasons, Girard said. He added that bank ATM machines also photograph customers.
Brickstream officials also downplayed any concerns about potential intrusiveness of the technology.
"The cameras are located in the ceiling looking down, so we're only looking at head and shoulders of people," Hudda said.
"Our cameras can't even see your face," said Simon Angove, Brickstream vice president of sales and marketing.
Brickstream this week will unveil its first two applications, Brickstream Intelligence for Service, which measures in-store service levels, and Brickstream Intelligence for Marketing, which assesses the effectiveness of marketing efforts such as product displays. The applications are already available.
Other applications planned for release this spring include Brickstream Intelligence for Space, which addresses space allocation, and Brickstream Alert, which can send alerts to a pager if, for example, customer waits exceed a desired time threshold.
Deployment of Brickstream applications requires the software as well as standard hardware, relational databases, and CDD or CCTV cameras.
A software-hardware combination from Brickstream costs $10,000 to $20,000 per store for an initial deployment of one application, plus a $1,000 to $3,000 monthly subscription fee. The products will be available either from Brickstream or through resale by Retek, which will sell the items under the Retek name.
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