As Bestway invests in digital, Tan Parsons finds out about a new ‘satnav for depots’.
Bestway has launched a mobile phone app, now available from Apple’s App Store, designed to ‘revolutionise’ the retail experience for its customers. It lets users see price updates on thousands of products, lists their favourite items and has a voice-to-text memo function.
What is a beacon?
A beacon is a small device that sits in a plastic casing no larger than a keyring. It emits a unique Bluetooth signal and has a battery that can last several years. It works in conjunction with a smartphone app that recognises the signal being emitted. The beacon can detect if users are 100ft, 50ft or 1ft away, for example, so the app can do different things, depending on
where the user is.
Where could this technology be used
in the future?
- In supermarkets or wholesale depots, to guide shoppers to the items they want and alert them to deals.
- For health and safety, to alert risk assessors to the history of specific areas of offices or warehouses.
- In museums, it could guide visitors around, depending on how much time they have and what they are most interested in.
This is part of the wholesaler’s wider investment in digital systems and the group is currently testing several ‘groundbreaking’ innovations including beacon technology, which could eventually guide retailers around its depots ‘by satnav’.
Beacons were invented by Apple and are already appearing on the retail landscape. One Stop, the Tesco-owned convenience brand, is rolling out beacons at 740 of its stores, meaning its customers will receive deals by text message as they pass by certain product displays.
Precisely how beacons might work in a wholesaler’s warehouses is still very much in the development stage. But this type of equipment could eventually transform not just the in-depot experience, but all sorts of facets of how we live our lives, according to Rob Mannion, managing director of Bestway’s technology partner RNF Digital Innovation.
He said: “The idea is that the user’s experience will be more fulfilling in terms of being directed to products or offers relevant to them, or even having areas of interest highlighted as they move around the environment.
“Retailers are in there to shop. Cash & carry depots can be anything up to 150,000sq ft and retailers’ shopping lists can come to several thousand pounds, so traversing these depots can be time-consuming. We know there are clear savings for retailers in terms of the time they have to spend navigating and collecting their stock.”
When paired with a mobile app to direct shoppers to items based on their purchasing histories, this sort of technology brings bricks and mortar retailers closer to online operators such as Amazon, which suggests products for its customers based on their shopping data.
Jamil Mohammed, group e-commerce manager at Bestway Wholesale, promises to share further details of the group’s technological innovations in due course.
He says: “We believe this represents a fantastic opportunity to take our customers on a new journey of interaction.”
There is still a question mark over how many independent retailers are really ready to use smartphones and other digital technology. But online sales through Bestway’s transactional websites are showing double-digit growth, of which 15% comes from new businesses. This suggests customers, at least, are now confident in using online channels.
The future is digital and wholesalers’ customers are moving with the tide.