LONDON: High street shops are being offered an increasing number of technology-based solutions aimed at attracting more shoppers and bridging the online-offline gap, such as tracking beacons placed within store mannequins.

Three UK fashion outlets – House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis and Bentalls – have just begun testing the VMBeacon. This is "a version of a bluetooth light beacon," Iconeme co-founder Adrian Coe explained to Marketing. "We've custom made the beacon and it goes within our visual merchandising equipment."

In this trial the beacon has been installed in store mannequins and transmits information to customers within a 50-100m radius with an app-enabled smartphone, including details about the clothes and accessories displayed, pricing and links to purchase the items directly from the retailer's website.

And as the beacon is always on, the retailer can engage with customers even if the outlet is closed, as the shop window becomes a constant interactive selling point.

"Installing this technology in mannequins ensures it occupies a prime location and an ideal focus-point for shoppers," Iconeme Co-founder Jonathan Berlin said, "whether they are in the store itself or just passing by the window."

Media agency Maxus has also been working on technology for retailers, such as a Magic Mirror, which recognises skin tone and colouring and offers an interactive facial analysis before presenting a number of looks to try using the cosmetics available.

"We know that there is a tendency for consumers to shy away from asking for help," noted Neil Stewart, global chief client officer, Maxus. "So for the consumer this technology offers tangible benefits. For retailers and marketers … these technologies enable you to engage with your target demographic and while doing so capture invaluable data which can be used to gain a better understanding of your shopper and their individual needs".

Other innovations include a trolley app, Wayfinder, which guides consumers around a store and brings up promotions, and iShelf, a small interactive digital shelf display.

Stewart was critical, however, of the unthinking use of technology by retailers, telling MediaTel of a recent trip through Bangkok airport where he was bombarded with 63 text messages from retailers in the duty-free area.

"The challenge for using tech in the retail space is refraining from being too intrusive," he said. "It requires a balancing act between what we can do and what as a brand or retailer, we should do."

Data sourced from Marketing, MediaTel, Gigaom; additional content by Warc staff