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RFID Delivers Location-Based Data at Helsinki Mall
The mall operator and 15 retailers are using an RFID-based system called Physical Cookie, instead of Bluetooth beacons, to identify shoppers' locations and deliver personalized marketing messages on digital signs.
Apr 07, 2015—
While Bluetooth beacon use is expanding at retail locations to push promotional content to customers on their smartphones, a Finnish shopping-mall owner has been trialing a solution using RFID technology to provide the same kind of location-specific content, without involving a shopper's personal information or phone.
Since mid-2014, several thousand shoppers at the Citycenter shopping mall in Helsinki, Finland, have been using RFID tags known as Citycenter VIP Keys to receive marketing messages related to their shopping behavior, as well as discount offers at stores they often visit. The mall's owner, Sponda Plc., and \Pilot, the innovation unit of Finish marketing agency TBWA\Helsinki, developed the system, known as the Physical Cookie, to identify shoppers' movements around the property, and to analyze that behavior and display appropriate content on digital screens installed throughout the mall as an individual approaches them.
Sponda is a property-investment company specializing in commercial properties throughout Finland's largest cities. Citycenter is one of its retail locations, with approximately 60 different stores spread throughout about five levels. The center is located in downtown Helsinki, in the Makkaratalo building near the train station—a very busy location. Typically, 200,000 shoppers pass through its doors every week.
"We're always interested in cool ideas to help our tenants and their customers," says Henrik Stadigh, Sponda's director of shopping centers. The company began working with TBWA/Helsinki, which already provided solutions for Sponda regarding marketing design. TBWA looked at beacon solutions but found shortcomings with that technology, according to Theodor Arhio, \Pilot's head of creative services.
"The iBeacon is a good idea on paper," Arhio says, but can be intrusive. "It sends you messages to your personal space—your phone," he says, "and we wanted to provide a disruption to that. We're excluding the phone." If a merchant uses beacons to transmit data to phones, that content can become a source of spam for customers. However, he adds, Sponda and TBWA decided that they could use RFID to collect data about a consumer's behavior without knowing that individual's identity, and could also provide personalized content without requiring the shopper to look at his or her phone.
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