The Technology Turning Customer Footsteps Into Rewards for Retailers

Sustainability. Foot traffic. Interactive experiences. Consumer data. Retailers have been flooded with these buzzwords in the past several months as they try to adapt their market strategies to keep up with a more demanding and savvy shopper. Pavegen, a new custom-built flooring system, offers a retail solution that incorporates all four of these elements into a single footstep.

Made up of a series of interlocking tiles, Pavegen uses public foot traffic as a source of sustainable energy. As pedestrians walk across the surface, their steps compress electromagnetic generators inside the tiles that produce up to 4 Joules of energy per step. This energy can then be stored, converted and used to power projects like ambient lighting, as at Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., or interactive messaging screens, as at the Mercury Mall in London.

“Unlike solar and wind, which are on rooftops or in oceans and fields, our technology is present in the space,” said Alex Johnson, head of communications at Pavegen. “People can interact with it and physically participate in that sustainability story.”

As well as becoming more environmentally conscious, consumers are looking for an experience that they can’t get online. Alongside pop-up in-store events, a CBRE report on retail’s outlook for 2019 noted the importance of redeveloping physical shopping spaces to improve the customer experience and bring traffic back to stores. However, this can be expensive. Pavegen, which can be used on a permanent or temporary basis in both indoor or outdoor locations, seeks to offset the cost of implementation with the value of both the energy generated and data collected.

Man and child walk on Pavegen floor tiles, generating energy in an outdoor area
Pavegen tiles work in both indoor and outdoor environments, generating energy for use by either the city grid or a retailer’s individual purposes.
CREDIT: Pavegen

Beyond the physical experience of moving on Pavegen tiles — the texture has been described as “pleasantly crispy” underfoot — there is a competition aspect. Bluetooth beacons inside the tiles communicate with customers’ smartphones and record their personal energy count in real time, either through the Pavegen app or integrated with a retailer’s interface. This energy is then converted into points as part of a rewards system, which retailers can prescribe how they wish.

“People love to do it,” said Johnson. “They love to participate, to jump up and down, dance, walk. That moment of engagement is really valuable, so we’ve taken that moment, and we’re creating more value from it through the app-based technology.”

By choosing which items or locations are offered as rewards, retailers can direct customers toward specific areas. They can also monitor consumer demographics, as the app is permission-based. To access the rewards, the customer agrees to share his or her preferences, which can then be used to inform the messaging and campaigns they receive. Syncing the in-store and online experience like this allows retailers to hone their omnichannel strategy, another element that CBRE highlighted as crucial for the 2019 market.

The movement required for Pavegen’s product particularly lends itself to the footwear market, and the company has partnered with both Adidas and Nike. In conjunction with the release of the Adidas Supernova Glide Boost range, two Pavegen tiles were set up to create a dynamic running game where the player’s movements on the tiles were replicated by a CGI athlete on-screen. Participants then competed against Olympic gold medallist Haile Gebreselassie. Elsewhere, Pavegen tiles have been installed at marathons in Paris and Chile, shopping centers in London and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and schools in the U.S. and U.K.

“We’re not trying to replace or supplant other renewable technologies,” said Johnson. “We’re creating an engaging experience that connects consumers to the sustainability story of the retail owner.”

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