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John Frieda triggers mobile experience with sound waves in mass merchant

John Frieda Hair Care is testing a mobile application that simulates a personal hair consultation for in-store shoppers and delivers a coupon by interacting with sound waves at bricks-and-mortar store locations.

The program was developed in partnership with John Frieda parent Kao USA and technology provider Lisnr, who would say only that it is being tested inside 50 mass merchant store locations. While they did not disclose the retailer, Mobile Commerce Daily’s examination of the John Frieda app on the Apple App Store discovered a screen shot clearly directing a user to a nearby Walmart store to trigger the in-store experience.

“Consumers are being trained to expect all information they receive to be more customized to their wants and needs,” said Gary Cooper, vice president of integrated marketing at Kao USA. “With digital elements, you can do just that by enhancing the consumer experience to make it more personalized.

“In an in-store environment, you are often flooded with a  variety of options,” he said. “Having a digital program can help guide you through the often-times complex number of choices, in order to find what’s right for you.”

In-store experiences
Mobile-enabled in-store experiences have grown quickly this year as retailers and brands recognize that shoppers are increasingly armed with a smartphone during their visits to bricks-and-mortar stores. Savvy marketers are looking for ways to leverage this consumer behavior to enhance the shopping experience.

Much of the attention around in-store mobile experiences has been on beacons, which leverage Bluetooth technology. The John Frieda experience works similarly to beacon engagements but leverages sound wave technology instead.

When consumers download the John Frieda US app, create a user profile and allow microphone access while visiting one of the 50 participating store locations, the experience is triggered.

The experience asks users questions about their hair and then recommends John Frieda products.

Once the consultation is complete, users receive a coupon and can share their experience on social media.

The app has a number of other features, including a store locator, news and promotions, styling tips and how-to videos.

Bluetooth vs. sound waves
The use of sound waves inside stores to trigger mobile experiences is gaining steam.

Last month, Office Depot, partnering with Mood Media, launched a program using the chain’s in-store sound system to let shoppers with the Shazam app access offers and other content on their smartphones (see story).

At the same time, beacon programs from Lord & Taylor and Macy’s that were launched as tests earlier have now been rolled out to all stores.

“Of course one of the biggest buzzes recently has been omni-channel, but nobody has really cracked the code on bringing the same relevance to a consumer no matter where they are and what they are experiencing,” said Jason Ruebel, vice president of operations and strategy at Lisnr.

“Lisnr’s solution allows companies to bridge the live event, retail and broadcast spaces with a simple software solution vs. multiple technologies pieced together for each environment,” he said.

Additional reporting for this story was provided by Caitlyn Bohannon

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York