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TBWA\Helsinki’s innovation unit \Pilot has developed and patented the Physical Cookie® system

What if brick-and-mortar retailers behaved more like ecommerce sites? Big data has catapulted many e-retailers into online mainstays, but this type of data collection and personalization of a retail experience has yet to be mastered in the physical retail space. has worked with a variety of retailers and brands from Kohl's to Lacoste and Adidas creating custom research to help them to better understand shifts in the retail and consumer experience space. We've collected tens of thousands points of data on the subject of 'In-Store Techification'

Consider what happened when Sponda, a property investment company teamed up with marketing agency TBWA\Helsinki. Taking cues from online retailers, the partnership created a shopping-mall experience unlike any else.

Their experiment began last year at the Citycenter shopping mall in Helkinki, Finland with the launch of VIP-Key Loyalty Program. Over 14,000 customers were given a keychain device called a 'Physical Cookie' that would allow stores to market to consumers in real-time and reward loyalty. Their objective was to target the right consumers when and where the retailer wanted to engage with them.

Instead of physical discount cards or free gifts with purchase offered at the till, retailers were able to detect purchasing patterns in real-time and, as a result, offer custom discounts based on these insights.

One of the key benefits for retailers was the access to previously non-existent data sets and real-time analytics. They could foresee high potential customers and even optimize the way they utilized their physical retail space. Aside from that, the keychain VIP-Key cost only $0.32 per device.

The four-month experiment at Citycenter resulted in 14.5 per cent more activity between the malls floors and 21.7 per cent more time spent in the mall. With the cost of Physical Cookie's RFID technology and the ease of use – literally popping it on your keychain – TBWA\Helsinki and Sponda have created something that is highly scalable. And unlike iBeacon technology, the Cookie is highly customized to the shopper. "Instead of spamming you with messages, the retail space reacts to your behviour [with Physical Cookie]," said TBWA's creative director Theodor Arhio.

While Physical Cookie has remained in the shopping mall space thus far, expanding to both Germany and Sweden, the company has plans to expand possible applications of their product. They've already had requests from outdoor companies, single retail chains and airports who have a keen interest in what they have to offer.

It's clear that the traditional retail experience needs to be redefined in order to remain relevant. Whether this means a Physical Cookie on everyone's keychain or something else, experimentation with different technologies to surprise and delight consumers is necessary in today's retail space.

Shelby Walsh is the president of Trend Hunter, the world's most updated, largest collection of cutting edge ideas.

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