Rudd Davis is a good son. To help his aging parents financially prepare for retirement, the former USA Today digital marketing executive bought them the Underhill Country Store, the one and only shop in his rural Vermont hometown.  

He wanted his parents’ fledgling small business not only to survive, but to thrive -- something that isn’t always easy for mom and pop retail shops to do without having a good grip on their operations performance metrics, he told Entrepreneur.com.

“Even though that country store had been around for 100 years, it just sort of bumped along and didn’t necessarily have any growth trajectory,” he said. “So I looked around for tools for my parents to use to improve the business, tools that were simple enough for them to use, yet technologically advanced enough to capture and analyze in-store data, to help them better understand and serve their customers.”

This Slick iBeacon Device Helps Retailers Push Deals to In-Store Shoppers
Swarm Mobile's app
Image credit: Swarm Mobile

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When Davis’s search came up empty, he created his own solution, which eventually became Swarm Mobile. It’s a geolocation-based analytics service that tracks retail shoppers and pushes personalized offers to them through their smartphones via free Wi-Fi when they walk into a participating store.

The company’s data-driven platform delivers real-time, in-store shopper analytics and customizable customer engagement tools that Davis said help convert window shoppers into buyers, increase transaction size and the likelihood of repeat business.

Here’s how it works: A customer connects to in-store Wi-Fi with their mobile device. Their mobile browser launches an HTML5 mobile website that shows them specific products that they can find right now on store shelves. The site also provides them with deals, discounts and coupons.

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Davis co-founded the San Francisco-based startup with his former USA Today colleague Ryan Denehy in June 2012. Swarm mobile has since locked up $4.5 million in venture capital (with seed investments from Brian Lee of ShoeDazzle and Legal Zoom and from rapper Nas). To date, it has sold more than 30,000 connected in-store Wi-Fi data collection and sharing devices to retail locations throughout the globe.

Now, fast forward to today, the day that Swarm Mobile announces the newest addition to its smart device lineup, the Swarm Portal. It’s a black, coffee cup cover-sized peel-and-stick Apple iBeacon-enabled device and what it does is really cool.   

Shop owners can simply stick the Bluetooth battery-operated, infrared heat sensor-equipped wireless unit right near their main entry doorway to measure foot traffic (when and how often people come in to shop, etc.) and point-of-sale transactional data (what shoppers buy, how much they spend and how often, etc.).

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Swarm Portal users can then leverage the data the device captures to make better decisions about scheduling staff, setting product prices, and to test out promotional deals, marketing campaigns and much more.  

Davis said the Portal is “like Nest for retail,” getting smarter over time, identifying trends and making suggestions on ways shop owners can increase revenue and decrease costs.

The device comes with it’s own companion app that users can easily sync with it. “That’s where all of the customer data is delivered directly to you, anywhere, anytime” Davis said. “You can even link your shop’s POS system with it and get your conversation rates, all right on your smartphone or tablet.”

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For retailers who have their own branded store app, Swarm Portal can push customized messages through their apps to customers about products, discounts, loyalty program rewards, events and other information based on their location within the store.

Here’s Davis’s example of how the portal system directly engages shoppers: You’re at your local, Swarm Portal-enabled coffee shop. You walk in and Swarm pushes you a message through the shop’s app that says, “Welcome back, Kim. This is your third time in this week! Your coffee is on us today for being such a great customer.”  

The portal itself costs a one-time fee of $79.99. Two paid monthly Swarm Portal package plans are available, ranging from $39.99 and $79.99, depending on the amount and types of data collected, and additional features like POS integration, shopper profiles, etc. A free monthly plan is offered as well for those looking to only identify foot traffic trends.