Reimagining the Human Touch in Retail with Real-time Location Intelligence


The apparel retail industry is no stranger to artificial intelligence. Smart mirrors allow customers to quickly “try on” products, ‘scan and go’ apps reduce shopping time and chat bots help customers find specific items in their size. As brands rapidly digitize the shopping experience, the savvy ones are aptly turning to location intelligence to reestablish the missing human touch and drive deeper connections with customers.

Location intelligence, paired with advanced technology, empowers brands with laser-sharp insights on fundamental human elements of their customers’ behaviors and informs decisions based on testable, measurable data rather than mere supposition. Essentially, using location data to help understand where people go and what they do and how they move, on an ongoing basis, and then taking that data and tying it back to more specific consumer data, provides a better understanding of what motivates people to take action. All of this information paints a vividly detailed picture for retailers. They can see who their customers are and determine how to best serve them.

The function of a real-time location intelligence platform extends well beyond just tracking where your customers are and their purchasing habits. Technology like this offers a distinct opportunity for a brand to adapt and thrive in the competitive, rapidly evolving retail industry — particularly to reconnect with customers and humanize the shopping experience through meaningful and memorable marketing moments.  

Here are some of the ways real-time location intelligence data is humanizing the shopping experience and driving business goals for apparel retailers:

Replacing guesswork with data-based decisions

Some retail brands are working with location data providers that manage extremely rich datasets, which are becoming increasingly valuable to retailers. Providers with access to extensive demographic and behavioral data on a significant number of mobile device IDs have the ability to collect and analyze billions of data points daily through apps, verified locations and predefined audience segments. Powerful data stacks such as these allow providers to offer retailers real-time verified walk-in and purchase attribution.  

These platforms can identify visits to a specific location after an ad is interacted with on any device, requiring no guesswork for the retailer. Appending this data with third-party data sources helps brands understand consumer demographics, psychographics and behaviors. When you start looking at correlations within that data and attaching it to what’s taking place in a store or on a retailer website, for example, that’s where the real connection point lives. Retailers can understand predictability of a consumer before they actually start making decisions. As a result, they are able to identify which messages resonate with which segments of their audience at which time — ultimately helping them get the right messages to the right people at the right time.

Enhancing audience segmentation

With these real-time platforms, apparel retailers can receive detailed analysis of their audience broken down by demographics, location and purchasing decisions. These key variables can also be run against various control groups, yielding critical information about a brand’s targeted audiences.

Equipped with customized, fine-tuned data, retailers can then initiate ‘conversations’ with current or prospective audiences. And this includes a variety of groups: geo-behavioral audiences, branded audiences, predictive audiences and seasonal audiences.

Aligning messaging strategy with the modern human experience

Consumers are presented with a multitude of marketing messages each day, whether it be on billboards, television, radio, email, social media or public transportation. It has become an embedded part of the human experience in any industrialized society — but oversaturation can dilute the currency of a message, even when disseminated on a widely consumed channel.

Historically, messaging strategy centralized around selecting the best media outlet to advertise on. But, in response to the negative effects of oversaturation and the arrival of burgeoning technology, messaging has shifted from being ad dynamic to more data dynamic.

Location intelligence is playing a huge role in this transformation because at the core of each fragment of location data, there is an individual human with unique needs, feelings and preferences. This is helping retailers connect the dots to make experiences with their brands more multi-dimensional, meaningful and omnichannel.

Communicating with consumers on their terms

The ideal humanization of the retail industry will see messaging strategies become increasingly malleable, meaning brands communicate with audiences in the ways they want to be communicated with. Just as apparel brands offer different styles, colors and sizes to meet the needs of a wide customer base, they won’t be able to rely on ‘one-size-fits-all’ messaging strategies. Retailers will have to take into account the aforementioned unique human needs of each consumer, understanding people at their baseline all the way up to their point of aspiration.  

Through the crisply calibrated lens that highly dimensional location intelligence offers, the message becomes more astute, clear and relevant to the audience at hand. Because it resonates with people and appeals to their unique life experiences, the message is treated less as a disruptive ad and instead reverberates as a conversation customers actually want to be a part of.

Authorizing consumers to drive the message

Savvy retail brands are agilely responding to the shifting messaging dynamic and taking it a step further to put more power in the consumer’s hands about how they are communicated to. The click-to-text (C2T) movement is a manifestation of this trend and it increases the interaction of a brand greatly.

While oversaturation has permeated many channels, a person’s SMS feed remains highly personal. Considering that the average response time to a text is 90 seconds while an email is 90 minutes, all eyes are on C2T as a more effective means of communicating with customers. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 customers report that they’d rather a business communicate with them via text message.

Opt-in innovations such as C2T are allowing consumers to control what messages they see and how they see them. The adoption of C2T may be gradual but, as consumers and brands alike reap the benefits of controlled messaging, this type of marketing will become more prevalent and likely disrupt the landing pages and affiliate marketing currently being employed.

Recognizing people as the ultimate connection

Much of the current conversation in retail centers around the rise of e-commerce and the supposed decline of brick and mortar. Some may say that brick and mortar is dying but the truth is that it is evolving. Aside from the fact that there are experiences with brick and mortar that cannot be fully replicated (e.g. actually trying on clothes), AI also cannot fully replace real human touchpoints.

In a world increasingly activated by AI, the human touch is actually becoming all the more rare and prized by consumers. Brands are being challenged to bring this to life to customers in more meaningful, impactful ways. The right location intelligence, provided by the right partner, can be a critical tool for humanizing the retail experience because it tells the ‘who, what, where, when, why and how’ of our lives — in bits and terabytes.


Sean Clayton is Chief Strategy Officer, SITO Mobile. As Chief Strategy Officer for SITO Mobile, Sean leads the Strategic Advisory Group, where he focuses on enhancing SITO’s product development offerings with a data-first, consultancy approach for evolving client needs. Under his leadership, the Strategic Advisory Group provides enterprise clients with the powerful ad media and data-driven intelligence solutions they need to drive robust revenue growth.

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