Waitrose new store in Swindon, where is is trialling iBeacons.

The experiment includes beacons placed at the entrance to the shop that can recognise a customer as they walk in and push out a message welcoming them to the store and highlighting aspects of the range. There are also beacons located around the store, offering Waitrose the opportunity to push out marketing messages offering discounts, for example 10 per cent off olive oil, as they walk down the appropriate aisle.

Speaking at a store tour in Swindon today (2 May), Waitrose’s IT director Cheryl Millington said the app is still in development but is part of the supermarket’s strategy to be adapt more quickly to new technology. She said the app offered the opportunity to push personalised promotions to customers, based on whether they had opted-in and the type of communications they said they would want to receive.

“This allows us to personalise the offer based on where people are in the store, making sure we send the right information at the right time and in the right context,” she said.

The app also allows customers to scan a product’s bar code to find out more information and reviews as well as call for assistance. If a customer chooses to do so, a member of staff will receive the request on an iPad that will inform them that a customer is waiting for help, who that customer is and what they like based on their previous shop.

Millington likened the app to a “personal assistant” helping shoppers as they navigate the store. The supermarket is also trialling a number of other apps, including one that would allow customers to pre-order food and drink from its food and drink-to-go areas and a mobile payment app that could replace its self-scanning service QuickCheck.

“We want to bring digital into the store and tailor our offer in a digital way to help the shopping experience. The idea is to fail fast or innovate and change based on feedback and then roll it out. This is not development of technology for the sake of it, it fits with the brand and what customers want,” said Millington.