Technology fundamentals of in-store personalisation

Juha Mattsson

The few last weeks have been busy for us at Walkbase, explaining the functionality of modern in-store technology including analytics.

Our announcement of the new cooperation with Helsinki airport operator Finavia at the end of July brought up some questions about privacy issues related to our technology.

For location based services delivered to passengers’ smartphones (e.g. current location, directions to a specific department, product recommendations, special offers) we always ask for explicit permission, i.e. opt-in, from passengers to identify themselves and link to their location and/or shopping profiles. Just like online stores, shoppers must accept terms and conditions before continuing their shopping with notifications turned on.

In this article I will cover the fundamental technology setup needed to gain benefits from personalisation within retail stores. In case you want to deepen your understanding of modern in-store personalisation I recommend you to get familiar with this eBook. There you will find these six technology fundamentals in a larger personalisation context:

  • Identification
  • Location-based triggers
  • Rich customer-data integration
  • Smartphones & apps
  • Digital signage and other in-store media
  • Automation of personalised messaging


Identifying the same anonymous user over time is a fundamental process for understanding long-term customer behaviour and for personalising the customer experience. For basic personalisation, there are many technologies for identifying individual visits (e.g. WiFi-analytics, door counters, and camera-based systems). But for creating personalisation that adapts to the whole customer relationship, it is essential to identify the same customer time and again across multiple channels. Typically, this kind of identification is only possible with solutions based on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, which provide possibilities for various forms of integration. A good solution should also let a retailer decide the visit frequency limit, to distinguish between new and recurring visitors.

SEE ALSO: Bluetooth Low Energy + Apple = iBeacon

Location-based triggers

Different indoor positioning methods may be used for identifying customers’ location in-store and enabling the sending of personalised content in real-time. This can best be achieved with either low-energy Bluetooth-based location tags (beacons) or WiFi-based positioning methods. Location-based triggers are a must if you want to adapt your communication to the correct part of the customer journey.

Rich customer-data integration

To truly understand customers and the kind of content that serves them best in each situation, their preferences and behaviour should be known to the most detailed level. Rich customer profile data (such as from CRM, in-store mobile use and online browsing behaviour) enables superior personalisation.

Smartphones and apps

To enable customer identification and location-based triggering, customers naturally need to be equipped with WiFi- and Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices. To connect to personal user profiles (instead of handling the customer anonymously), a smartphone app is required. Apps also act as the key channel for displaying proximity marketing, product recommendations and other digital experiences that activate shopping.

SEE ALSO: What is in-store personalisation?

Digital signage and other in-store media

Smartphones are not the only means of digitally engaging with customers in physical stores. Retailers are rapidly covering their in-store space with digital signage to engage shoppers with dynamic content. With user identification, rich profiles and indoor positioning as described above, retailers are able to customise and display personalised content real-time as a customer comes near a display. This can be in very subtle ways, e.g. by shortly displaying a product that the retailer knows the user has browsed earlier in their web store.

SEE ALSO: Maximising the value of store space through indoor advertising

Automation of personalised messaging

Automation is what makes the in-store personalisation scalable and thus feasible. To support automation in the best possible way, the system should be able to handle large amounts of data in a fast and scalable way. This is needed for analysing the different customer situations for multiple different places at the same time. The solution should also provide scalable tools for managing different locations and an engine for handling the complex rules with which the analytics insights are acted upon. This type of marketing naturally requires customers to opt-in first. 

SEE ALSO: Mobile marketing automation is more than small emails

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Walkbase provides a retail analytics solution for improving the impact of marketing on physical stores and personalising in-store shopping experience.