The old, boring way of shopping has its days numbered. The store of the future is an inevitable transformation that will take place in the retail industry. That’s the message on which Beabloo, the digital signage and omnichannel solutions company, works upon.
That much was clear for us here at AkuaroWorld the last time we spoke with Beabloo. Now, fresh out of some important announcements—and recognition—Beabloo is ready to enter a new stage of their 10-year-long career. We had a chat with CEO Jaume Portell about the company’s recent achievements, the push for AI, ambitions on other territories, and the possibility of expanding beyond retail.
Beabloo AI Research
In 2018, Beabloo launched its own laboratory dedicated to artificial intelligence, Beabloo AI Research. The company expects AI to be a big part of its future business, as it will allow it to take advantage of an incredible asset the company already has, but that can definitely be exploited further.
“When you’ve been doing this for 10 years, you realize that what the client gives you has a lot of value,” explains Portell. “The clients tells you a lot of things—and they’re telling you without them knowing.” He talks about one thing in particular, the one asset that’s so important for what they do: data. “That amount of data reveals hundreds of different scenarios. It’s not just Big Data for finding patterns, it’s much more than that. It’s something that AI, not the human eye, can see.” He argues that AI is the only path capable of getting into “the details” of this information, “not because we humans aren’t capable, but because of the huge amount of work that it entails.”
Portell says that Beabloo has “a relevant” internal investment dedicated to AI, but they’ve also enlisted the help of two external players, the clients and the technological partners, which he calls “a three-way partnership.”
Up to now, Beabloo’s efforts have resulted in two main AI products. The first one, called Minerva is “the crown’s jewel”, according to Portell. It’s a tool that takes charge on a store’s digital signage, learning on what works best and taking its own decisions on real time according to that information. It’s constantly learning, and Portell claims that, even though its goal is definitely to sell more, the first actual first purpose is to serve clients better. The second one is Halo, a bot prototype that combines conversational and visual functionalities, allowing Beabloo to be “much more natural with that interaction.” In short, it’s a virtual voice assistant, but one destined to be used at stores.
A big achievement for Beabloo came in the form of consulting firm Futuresource, which highlighted the company thanks to its presence in Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) 2019. The event, which was held on February 5-8, saw Beabloo show off its solutions by way of an interactive booth that was selected among the 30 best—from a total of 1300. The booth was divided in three sections, each one representing a phase of what the company calls “the customer journey”—the steps each customer goes through in a retail location by using Beabloo’s solutions. First, communication with the consumer, secondly, collecting and analyzing insights, which directly to the third phase: improving the customer experience by way of that gathered data, which allows to recognize basis profiles like gender and age.
A month later, on March, Futuresource’s report gave recognition to Beabloo, giving exceptional praise to the company’s solution on the retailer sector under the “Digital Signage Trends” category, among others like Panasonic, NEX and Sharp.
“The best thing about leading a project like this is seeing how your team is capable of creating those achievements from what was a small, but ambitious idea,” proudly confessed Portell, also adding that it was the result of many years of work. “Things turned out much better…. You get an idea of where you can get, but then your team not only gets there, but makes it even better.”
While expert in its own field, Beabloo has established important alliances that allow it to take some necessary steps. One of those partnerships is KIOSK, a company specialized in self-serving solutions, which is assisting Beabloo with the hardware required to implement their technology. “We provide the soul, the software—that’s why we need partners.” On KIOSK he says: “They’re a great company with a lot of experience in the hospitality sector and have worked with brands like IKEA. Our partnership with them is very important, because it opens the North American market for us.”
But it wasn’t just about North America. Though Portell highlights that the American market is a big ambition and priority for Beabloo, and that they’re already in fact working on several projects there, he says Asia also remains in the plans. “While it’s true we’ve given a lot more focus to Europe recently because our big projects are here, we’re still looking at China.” In fact, he adds, Beabloo has just closed an important deal from “a big operator” from Hong Kong.
Beyond market expansion though, the company is also making efforts to improve its technological portfolio. They acquired Metriplica, a company that ended up being part of the effort to build the Beabloo AI suite.
“This is the year of big projects for us”, says Portell, reflecting on what’s coming for the company he leads. “We’re on the AI engine. 2018 was the year to show the value of those solutions. 2019 is the year of challenges, the year of big deployment.”