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Shop dummies come to life to tell smartphones what they are wearing

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Shop mannequins coming to life has been a long running theme in sci-fi show Dr Who, occurring at least three times since 1970. But now it has become a reality, albeit less threateningly, with beacon company Iconeme installing Bluetooth beacons in shop dummies to engage consumers in a more ‘human’ way.

Iconeme – run by Jonathan Berlin and Adrian Coe, who happen to also own Universal Display, a mannequin manufacturer – installs Beacons in shop dummies which can then be programmed to engage Bluetooth enabled shoppers as they walk by, offering information about the clothes being worn (by the dummies) and, more importantly, harvesting data about the consumers walking past.

The technology is going on trial in House of Fraser in Aberdeen, Hawes & Curtis in Jermyn Street, London, and for French Connection and Jaeger clothes in the window of the Bentalls store in Kingston upon Thames.

The beacon is installed directly into each mannequin or, alternatively, a hi-tech billboard, and transmits information that has been programmed by the retailer via a secure web-portal. The retailer can choose what information is made available, but equally important is the fact they can access information about the shopper. This can include the age, gender and location of the customer, what outfit was viewed and whether a purchase was made online.

Iconeme’s Berlin explains: “This technology will change the way people shop on the high street, as it brings together both on and offline retail. Research shows that customers already use their smartphones while shopping in store, but until now, the retail industry hasn’t realised the full potential of this. The beacon creates a completely new dimension to the shopping experience, by combining the consumer desire to be connected on the go, with the bricks and mortar store.”

Edward Smith, the brand manager of Hawes & Curtis, adds: “We chose Iconeme because we want to develop a greater engagement with our customers. Our visual merchandising team help bring our product to life in the windows and now we can have a better understanding of how this impacts the man and woman in the street. The VMBeacon also works 24 hours a day, so we can have instant feedback and instant sales as a result of our displays, even if the store is closed. It’s a complete game-changer for the retail industry and we’re delighted to be in it from the start.”

Right now the beacons ‘talk’ to the smartphone using data and appears as text on the screen, but it won’t be long, believes Berlin, before it is using the voice function of the smartphone, like Siri, to do this as a voice. Let’s hope they don’t go rogue.

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