Beacons: Coming to a Mannequin Near You

by Net Future Institute on August 19, 2014

photo-5By Chuck Martin

Thanks to beacons, mannequins are becoming live, interactive shopping locations.

As with other beacon programs, a new one just launched in the U.K. wakes up a passing smartphone, as long as it has Bluetooth turned on and a certain app in its library.

The key here is that the mobile shopper can instantly purchase any of clothing they see on the mannequin.

Rather than coming from a technology-focused company, the new beacon program comes from a well-established mannequin business that created its own technology called VMBeacon, which allows retailers to program the details of the messaging.

The beacon program was launched by Iconome, a company spinoff of Universal Display, a global company based in London and New York.

“We’ve been in the mannequin business for 27 years,” Iconeme CEO Jonathan Berlin told me from London yesterday.

Berlin said the beacon-enabled mannequins are now in House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis, Bentalls and Jaeger in the U.K. and soon coming to U.S. stores.

The objective of the Iconeme beacon program is to sell products, providing incremental revenue to retailers, since window shoppers can buy products seen in the window when the store is closed.

“We’re very product oriented,” says Berlin. “It’s about selling stuff off the mannequin.”

Window displays with the mannequins have signage promoting downloads of the Iconeme app, to date one of several hurdles of many beacon implementations.

“As a consumer walks by the store and stops to look at the mannequins in the window, their Iconome app opens and they see on their phone the outfits on all of the mannequins,” says Berlin.

There are some interesting twists in this beacon application, most notably the user control, which portends another potential behavioral change initiated by beaconing, as I’ve written about here (Mobile Shoppers & the Act of Beaconing).

The consumer can store certain details in the app, such as gender, chest size, age category and email address. They also can set their own beacon notification preferences, such as being notified each time they enter a store or a limit of one message per store per day.

“Other beacons mostly are offers-based products,” says Berlin. “Ours is based around mannequins with beacons inside” (at about the waist level, If you must know).

Once the beacon triggers the app, consumers see a replica of the mannequin with the same outfit on their phone.

They then can drill down to get more product descriptions of the clothing on the mannequin, see where it’s located in the store, save the look, tap to see the clothing item in a different color, share on social media and, most importantly to the retailer, purchase the product immediately from their phone.

Initially, most department stores are placing the beacon-loaded mannequins in the windows with an average of 8 to 10 beacons at a location. If those prove successful, in-store mannequins with beacons could easily become prevalent.

The next time you see a consumer looking at a mannequin in the window and then at their phone, you may be witnessing yet another brick being added to the house of mobile commerce.


Chuck Martin is Editor of the mCommerce Daily at MediaPost and writes the daily MobileShopTalk column. He is the author of “Mobile Influence,” “The Third Screen,” and “The Smartphone Handbook.” He is CEO of Mobile Future Institute. Chuck Martin is a frequent Mobile Keynote Speaker and Mobile Marketing Speaker internationally. He also addresses Social Media in Mobile.


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