Blog Post from October 27, 2017
Apple advances Sophatar with new features in IOS11

At Sophatar we’re all about creating higher customer engagement in brick & mortar retail and hospitality businesses. Many vendors claim to do the same but they resort to complex and expensive setups to try to link physical and online activity. This includes some methods that only work partially or that have a ‘creep factor’ that is way too high for general customer adoption beyond a pilot project...

Think for instance about face recognition from in-store cameras, or MAC address sniffing. The latter can even no longer uniquely identify a customer’s multiple visits to the store, as now the Wi-Fi MAC address of an iPhone is being randomized as long as it is not actually connected to a Wi-Fi network.

During our vacation in Italy this year we bought a t-shirt that states ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication (Leanardo da Vinci)’. So yes that’s our mantra here at Sophatar as well. Read on to find out why...

Our core contextual digital signage solution automatically creates digital display signage based on a data feed from sales transactions (e.g. from the line items obtained from a point-of-sale receipt). We can show product recommendations for top-selling products, or products that are frequently bought together, as the result of our data analytics. From that we automatically create, and keep up-to-date, one or more in-store digital signage screens.

But now we do more. We use the same data feed to auto-create a full-featured e-commerce website to allow for pre-paid orders possibly with in-store pickup to drive extra traffic to the store. We can also create an in-store digital signage display that promotes this website as an additional in-store sales channel. But how do we link the e-commerce website with the in-store signage? Simple: with QR codes that show on the signage screen and link to individual product pages on the site.

“But QR codes are passé and never really worked” I hear you say... True but why was that? Because you had to bother with a third-party app, that was not pre-installed on the phone, to scan them. In the new iPhone OS version (IOS11), Apple has integrated a QR code scanner into the stock Camera app. It means you can now just point your iPhone to a QR code, a popup banner appears to open the link in Safari, and a single tap opens the mobile browser. No fiddling with third party apps anymore.

Early customer feedback suggests this is a great use case for pre-paid order in-take in either retail or hospitality: customer sees a product on digital signage, points his/her phone to the screen, the phone opens on the actual product page, and the customer can add the product to a mobile shopping cart and complete the checkout process from the phone. Meanwhile we offer an order confirmation that prints on an in-store printer so the retailer or hospitality business knows an order came in via this new sales channel. By the way next to credit cards, we integrate Apple Pay and the brand new Pay-with-Google payment methods in our checkout flow so no need to enter credit card data on the site as we can use the payment cards stored in your phone’s mobile wallet. Simple point to signage, and tap in the browser to finish payment. No app required.

Another solution of Sophatar is proximity signage where we use BLE beacon signals to detect a phone’s proximity to a digital signage screen, and then our service turns your phone into a remote control for that public digital signage screen. No connection to Wi-Fi required.

Also here some new features in IOS11 advance our cause...

When you swipe up from the bottom to open Control Center on an iPhone and press the Bluetooth button to switch off Bluetooth, you are now just disconnecting from any Bluetooth peripherals you are connected to. In IOS11, the Bluetooth transceiver actually stays on (and thus can keep scanning for beacon signals emanating from digital signage in our use case). Only when you switch off Bluetooth from within the iPhone Settings menus does the Bluetooth transceiver actually switch off. That switch is buried deeper in the UI so it’s unlikely most will use that option...

With this small change the percentage of iPhones that will have Bluetooth continuously switched on is certainly bound to further increase. Even more so since there is no longer an audio jack, so Bluetooth is the logical way to connect headphones. Both changes in IOS11 (integrated QR code scanner in Camera app, Bluetooth connectivity changes) play nice with the architectural choices Sophatar has made to link offline and online environments, and to detect customer presence and proximity. We don’t use cameras, MAC address sniffers, displays with integrated payment terminals, or store cards with embedded RFID to detect customer proximity and link physical and online environments. Just your phone.

Because yes, ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’!

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