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1/7/2013
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Your Smartphone As Big Data Analytics Tool

Startup Euclid uses smartphone Wi-Fi signals to monitor customer movements and collect data for brick-and-mortar retailers.

Big Data's Surprising Uses: From Lady Gaga To CIA
Big Data's Surprising Uses: From Lady Gaga To CIA
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Many data analytics providers, including RetailNext, LightHaus, and Immersive Labs use in-store cameras to track and record the activities of retail shoppers. But Silicon Valley startup Euclid has an alternative solution for data gathering: the smartphone you carry everywhere you go.

Calling its platform "Google Analytics for the physical world," Euclid's software can detect if a customer in or near a physical store has a smartphone with Wi-Fi enabled. If so, Euclid can then monitor the person's movements inside the store and in front of it.

The company last week announced a new version of its analytics tool, Euclid Zero, which requires no dedicated sensors or complex in-store setup, according to John Fu, Euclid's director of marketing.

"What we had been doing previously -- and we still do for some customers -- is install a sensor in the store. It's like a little Wi-Fi access point, basically. It's not providing Internet access, it's just reporting these broadcasts from Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones," Fu told InformationWeek in a phone interview. But with Euclid Zero, IT managers can turn on the monitoring feature in their Wi-Fi management consoles.

[ Retailers could soon use face detection software to target their marketing efforts. Read more at Smile, Shoppers! Big Data Analytics Software Watches You. ]

The new approach makes sense for retailers, who can leverage their existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to collect data about customer behavior, Fu said. Brick-and-mortar stores often already have Wi-Fi in place for their customers, employees and point-of-sale systems. "There's a ton of data out there already, whether it's from register receipts, website traffic, or what have you," said Fu. "They've got tons of numbers, but not a lot of time."

Euclid's analytics platform is designed to help retailers answer specific questions about what their customers want. It provides a variety of metrics, such as a store's "engagement rate," as well as tools to help retailers measure the effectiveness of specific sales, circulars and other marketing campaigns. "A convenience store transaction might take five minutes. In that case, a visit of five minutes or longer could definitely be an engaged customer," said Fu. "But in the case of a jewelry store, you're looking at a much longer sales process. For that, someone who stays for, say, twenty minutes up to an hour, that's considered engaged."

Retailers can use Euclid's web-based dashboard to set appropriate parameters for their businesses. A jewelry store manager, for instance, could configure Euclid to count any shopper who stays in the store longer than 20 minutes as an "engaged" customer.

The platform looks at several key metrics, including: 1) Are their people outside the store? 2) Do they come in? 3) Once they're in the store, how long do they stay? 4) Do they return for a visit? 5) How frequently do they visit?

So what's the price?

"Our standard pricing is based on how many sensors you have in the store," said Fu. "Typically for a small retail location, like a mall shop, you probably only need one sensor, one axis point. So our standard rate for that is $200 a month." As with camera-based analytics solutions, Euclid's Wi-Fi solution is bound to raise privacy concerns, particularly as smartphone owners become unwitting participants in a store's analytics infrastructure. But Fu sees Euclid's smartphone approach as the less troublesome option. "Both solutions have privacy implications, obviously. But in terms of how comfortable people feel about it, once you get into taking people's pictures, there's a certain level of discomfort that people get," said Fu.

Euclid isn't the only analytics vendor enlisting shoppers' smartphones to collect customer data. Nearbuy Systems, for instance, offers a similar solution. "One of ways we're trying to differentiate from other services is by helping retailers answer questions, not just give them more data," said Fu.

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