Euclid Analytics (EA) is nowhere near as old as its namesake, the ancient Greek mathematician who applied the deductive principles of logic to geometry, deriving theorems from clearly defined axioms. EA does go way back by means of association though, as it was founded in 2010 by Will Smith, whose grandfather was the driving force behind the modern-day shopping mall.
EA is looking to create its own treatise by offering a product line that deals with physical world analytics in a formal and systematic way, much like what Euclid did for mathematics with his Elements treatise. EA applies data science principles and logic about how people behave in the physical world to derive actionable insights for their customers.
Physical world customer analytics have traditionally been pretty simple and binary: they basically count the number of people in stores, as well as transaction data. EA set out to go beyond this by introducing Euclid Insight and Euclid Connect, aiming at customer analytics and retention, respectively.
Although this product line made for a compelling offering for brick-and-mortar shops, it was missing one crucial piece of the puzzle: a solution for good old people counting. Now EA sets out to become and end-to-end solution provider, by introducing Euclid Traffic. Traffic promises to help users measure visitor count across locations, staff locations more effectively based on weekly, daily, and hourly flow and evaluate the impact of marketing campaigns on traffic.
But how does it fit in with existing EA products? Insight uses Wi-Fi infrastructure to sense signals emitted by smartphones. This raw data is then aggregated, analyzed, and automatically turned into insights. Connect follows this up by using Wi-Fi to market more effectively and personalize in-store experiences, requiring customer opt-in and a single visitor login. So it seems that a solution that can count -- and perhaps identify -- customers would complement this offering nicely.
Both Insight and Connect leverage Wi-Fi to keep track of user devices and their movement through space and time. Although it works, the accuracy of this method is pretty low: it's in the range of 2.0 to 2.5 meters (6.5 to 8 feet), which explains why neither Insight nor Connect can detect customer location precisely. Instead, they offer zone-based location, meaning that retailers are able to identify when customers move from zone to zone, but not exactly where they are within a zone.
In other words, relying on Wi-Fi alone would probably not cut it for Traffic. This is why EA has partnered with Xovis, a leading systems developer for people counting solutions. Currently in deployment across 100-plus locations, this collaboration expands EA's hardware-agnostic software platform to support Xovis 3D person tracking and counting sensors. So the combination of Wi-Fi and tracking/sensors should work.
But this solution comes at a cost, as it requires additional hardware, deployment, and integration. Wi-Fi may be inadequate for location purposes, but it's not the only game in town. Beacons are all the rage these days, with predictions going as far as claiming that beacons will influence about $44 billion in sales at top retailers for 2016, and will be used by 85 percent of them. And beacons can do much-much better than Wi-Fi for location purposes.
Even if these predictions are exaggerated, as predictions usually are, and the technology is in flux and fragmented, as technology usually is, the trend is there. So are beacons in EA's radar? One would expect so, as by utilizing beacons location accuracy could be improved, which would in turn lead to increased potential for insights through analytics.
However, Brent Franson, EA's CEO with whom we spoke, was somewhat dismissive of beacon technology. While a pragmatic, userbase-in-the-here-and-now approach would account for this, perhaps there's more.
EA works by interacting with access points in stores, as pings from smartphones are sent to an AWS-based platform. But can phones be identified and associated to owners, via MAC addresses for example? About 70 to 90 percent of shoppers have a MAC addressed device, which is more than sufficient to be accurate. EA says MAC addresses are hashed and never correlated with owner, unless opted in. But whether that is about to change with Traffic is anyone's guess, as the technology potential is there.
An opting in approach will have to be adopted for beacons as well. While many smartphone users tend to leave their Wi-Fi connections on through the day, the same does not apply for beacons. If beacon use in retail takes off as forecasted, and given the aggressiveness many campaigns have been known to display and the less than essential dependence on beacons for other uses compared to Wi-Fi, many users will be inclined to deactivate beacons on their devices. This may explain EA's inclination to shy away from beacons for the time being.
But the line between customer privacy and marketing efficiency has always been a thin one, and as long as retailers and vendors go for opt-in and clear terms, everyone should be happy.