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Smartfocus Debuts Virtual Beacons

SmartFocus this week introduced The Message Cloud to brick-and-mortar retailers, a “virtual beacon” system that relies on GPS-like technology programmed to connect with shoppers in defined “boxes” on the store floor.

“If I’m installing a multi-department retailer with beacons, I’m going to have to put one in every category. So I’ll have one in electronics, one in housewares, and I’ll end up with 50 to 75 beacons inside the store. And God help me if the planogram changes,” says Joe Dalton, SmartFocus’s Chief Product Officer. “Every retailer was doing a pilot with beacons last year, and the ones we talked to said, ‘No way are we managing 50 or 60 little devices in every store.’”

SmartFocus’s solution employs one high-powered beacon device per store that transmits to boxed-out areas on a floor plan. Messaging plans for these virtual beacons are run through SmartFocus’s Message Cloud, meaning that chain headquarters can control transmissions for entire store networks.

Dalton says the functionality of the SmartFocus system matches that of actual beacons. “Beacons can focus down to a square meter, and this technology has the same resolution. If you linger inside one of the designated boxes for two minutes, the store is going to send you a message,” he says.

Though the hardware investment for The Message Cloud is “damn near zero,” according to Dalton, he expects the system to first take hold in high-end department stores with focused brand propositions, as well as in sports stadiums and movie theaters that can concentrate messaging around specific three-hour blocks.

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