Philips turns LEDs into an indoor GPS for supermarkets

Philips believes that the days of endlessly roaming around a store looking for the right kind of balsamic vinegar may soon be at an end. The company’s lighting division has developed an indoor navigation system that enables your smartphone to direct you straight towards the Oils & Vinegars (Specialist) section. In addition, the technology helps to light everything up nice and bright, and save a bucketload of cash in the process.

Rather than using Bluetooth beacons, which others believe will being reliable indoor navigation for retail outlets, the company has swapped out the traditional lighting for banks of white LEDs above each aisle. Each bulb is equipped with visible light communication (VLC), enabling it to beam out a code that’s imperceptible to the human eye. When a user opens the corresponding smartphone app and holds it horizontally, the forward-facing camera reads the VLC. Once the software knows where you’re located, it’ll follow this overhead breadcrumb trail to get you where you need to go.

As you can see in the clip, the first supermarket to sign up to the project is France’s Carrefour, which is trialling the technology at its colossal hypermarket in Lille. In addition to providing hyperlocal indoor navigation, the company is also reporting that the tech has slashed its energy bills by 50 percent. Oh, and if you have any concerns that your movements are being tracked, the pair have already promised that the VLC system is entirely passive — so locals only have to worry about the national security forces.

P&G is widely considered to be a pioneer in shopper marketing, with former chief A.G. Lafley calling it “the first moment of truth.”

Shopper marketing may not be sexy, but it gets results. More evidence of this: Grey Group is setting up a new shopper marketing operation to work for client Procter & Gamble now that G2, the agency’s retail unit, is merging with OgilvyAction to create a bigger activation agency. The Grey launch underscores the importance of the retail discipline to mainstream agencies as something more than a tactical effort left to specialty shops.
Shopper marketing runs the gamut from displays, packaging and promotion to sales. It has been growing at more than 21 percent annually, according to Deloitte and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, with companies like P&G said to spend at least $500 million at point of purchase annually.

“There’s growing recognition that retail is the center of gravity in marketing. In all its manifestations, whether online, e-commerce, in-store or mobile, retail is in the center of everything a brand touches,” said Tim Manners, founder of retail marketing The Hub Magazine. “There’s also greater recognition of its potential as a marketing platform, not just a distribution channel. Retail is unique. It’s the one place where both sales and marketing happen at the same time.”

In the Hub’s newest annual ranking of the top 20 shopper marketing agencies and brands, it noted that marketers are placing more importance on the practice when ranking agencies. “Shopper marketing concept and understanding” rose to the No. 1 criteria among agencies, up from No. 9 in 2012. Another change: P&G regained the top spot among brands, bypassing Unilever, which was ranked No. 1 last year.

P&G is widely considered to be a pioneer in shopper marketing, with former chief A.G. Lafley calling it “the first moment of truth.”

Dina Howell, worldwide chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi X, was the leading architect of those initiatives at P&G. Her first project was for Walmart in 1997. The retailer was frustrated because 70 percent of moms’ baby purchases were for lower-margin diapers and formulas. Howell oversaw creation of the first baby center where infant products, previously dispersed through the store, were organized in one aisle.

“It quickly got results that showed moms lingered longer and spent more money. It was more profitable for retailers and better for the manufacturer because they were able to have more of a dialogue with these moms,” Howell said. “It changed the way marketing happens with shoppers. A marketing plan is not complete without understanding how a shopper shops. People are in their final throes of getting ready to spend money, and they are very open to new information.”

Selling at retail has become more than sales promotion. It’s become a necessary part of a brand’s efforts to gain share and build equity, proponents argue.
“P&G was the first company to get into it and view it as strategic marketing,” said Chris Hoyt, a former P&G exec, of consulting firm Hoyt & Co. “Shopper marketing is really marketing today. Sorry we still consider it as a separate discipline.”