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How Carrefour shoppers are using its 'indoor GPS' system: Retail Design Expo seminar report

A discussion about an ingenious technology called visible light communication – which sees ceiling lighting strips send out extremely accurate codes that can be used for location-based services by smart phones – saw delegates pack the Retail Design Expo auditorium. The visitors were keen to hear more about how French hypermarket chain Carrefour is currently trailing the system.

The technology, designed by Philips Lighting, is part of the lighting giant’s transition to move ‘beyond illumination’. Carrefour was already upgrading lighting in its Lille hypermarket, so used the opportunity to trial the new technology. It is installed within the retailer’s chosen lights as standard, so buyers have the choice of whether or not to use this pay-as-you-go functionality.

Céline Martin, director modéles commerciaux et innovation at Carrefour, told delegates: “With such a large retail space, and the fact we run between 400-600 promotions every week, it’s essential we help customers find promotions. Using our app, customers can see exactly where they are in the hypermarket, and see promotions that are nearby, or promotions linked to what’s on their shopping list.”

Since the trial began in 2013, a modest 3,600 customers have downloaded the app, but Martin says the 1% of people who use the app every week is a stable number. She also said 50% of those using the app will do so in-store. 

Gerben van der Lugt, indoor positioning business development leader at Philips Lighting, said: “This technology is making use of smart phones increasingly becoming a shopping companion for people… We already know eight in ten people use their smart phones while shopping, while other research finds 50% of shoppers say they would be happy to receive location-based alerts – including details about promotions around them.”

Philip’s own research has found 74% of consumers would be happy to receive location-based alerts if they helped them find good deals, while 72% would use location based technology on their phones to help them hunt for temporary promotions.

“What’s interesting,” said Lugt, “is that when people can’t find a product they’re looking for, 9% will leave your store completely and try to find it somewhere else, while a further 7% will choose not to bother buying the product they were looking for at all. Both of these numbers are bad news for retailers hoping to maximise the amount of money consumers spend with them.”




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