February 2023
April 2023

Improving in-store customer experience for Virgin Media O2 using AI technology

Finding a start-up solution to improve Virgin Media O2’s in-store experience that is on track to deliver 20x ROI in its first year

Improving in-store customer experience for Virgin Media O2 using AI technology

Finding a start-up solution to improve Virgin Media O2’s in-store experience that is on track to deliver 20x ROI in its first year.

The problem: lack of customer insights tools for in-person stores

e-commerceUnlike ecommerce stores, bricks and mortar stores don’t have a wide range of analytics tools to get data on their in-store customers.

Existing solutions often require lengthy opt-ins for privacy reasons and depend on networks of new sensors, with installation costs, technical challenges and a learning curve for staff. 

Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) wanted to increase the profitability of its stores with a solution that offered insight into customer behavior, whilst also meeting the following requirements: 

  • Doesn’t require opt-in
  • Simple to use
  • Could be installed as an application layer without new hardware  (worked with existing CCTV installations)

The question was whether a solution existed. If so, how could they find the right one for their business? 

Enter Wayra UK.

Step 1: taking a step back: starting with the ‘right’ problem

To find the right solution, we had to start with the right problem. 

Not defining the problems worth tackling and the reality of what’s possible within the corporate, limits the chance of delivering tangible impact from the offset.

The first step is mapping out VMO2’s internal structure, stakeholders, processes & goals across all relevant business units to identify & mitigate bottlenecks when they start engaging with a start-up.

The goal is to create a clear problem statement which all key stakeholders buy into that takes into account real business needs, as well as the reality of what’s possible within the corporate.

Step 2: Finding the right solution

Knowing what’s out there - looking at every possibility

The first step of finding the right solution was tapping into our network of industry experts, VCs etc. to aggregate every possible solution (circa 1000). 

Through a viability review of all the companies, we condensed the list to 200 solutions which we could confidently say had the commercial and product viability for the next stage.

Picking the right solutions - problem solution ‘fit’ 

Those 200 companies were presented at an assessment day attended by 100 people, half of which were key stakeholders from the relevant departments in VMO2. 

The companies were scored based on business priorities and those with the highest scores moved on to the next stage.

Typically, a handful of companies will emerge as strong contenders from the assessment day. Of these, two or three will proceed to trial.

We designed this process to maximise problem-solution fit, achieve visibility and buy-in from across VMO2, and lay the foundation for a long-term working relationship whose investment and return cycles might be years or more.

The winner: Spatial insights.

The solution selected by VMO2 was Spatial Insights.

It deploys directly into existing CCTV cameras rather than requiring the installation of new sensors, strips out personally identifying information before storage or processing, and doesn’t use facial recognition, so opt-in isn’t required. 

It creates heatmaps of movement flows around the store, bringing analytics and insight familiar from e-commerce into the high street and letting VMO2 optimise its store layouts, product placements, and even store locations.

Watch a demo here.

Step 3: making sure it works in practice

Having a solution is great but how it works in practice determines whether it’s a viable long-term solution.

That’s why we run pilots.

The goal is to validate the value proposition, the technology, and the organisational fit.

Essentially checking everything works in practice before VMO2 made a significant investment in them. There was no significant commitment requested from Aura Vision at this stage either.

Aura Vision was piloted across 20 VMO2 stores.

Our role in this whole process is to work with both sides to help integrate the teams because it’s no surprise that corporates and start-ups operate differently and managing the two whilst they work together is key.

The trial was a success, giving the VMO2stores involved in the trial data on their customers that improved efficiency and sales.

Step 4: rolling the solution out across the business

Picking a solution is great, but it’s the beginning, rather than the end. There’s no impact if nothing goes beyond the pilot.

That’s why we support in that handover process to set up scaling infrastructure for success.

In Aura Vision’s case the operations trialled at the previous stage were expanded, still being measured and watched carefully for performance and integration with VMO2’s core business.

Spatial Insights was rolled out to stores across the UK, staff were trained in its use and a permanent internal team was set up to operate the project and manage the data stream it generated.

The results: increased revenue for VMO2 & product validation for Aura Vision

Spatial Insights enabled VMO2  to grow its bricks-and-mortar revenue by 4.4%[1] — faster than total revenue, even during lockdown. Store locations could be validated or changed, and layout and product decisions could now be made on the basis of easily-understandable data.

Aura Vision’s solution is now being deployed by several other corporates, including Onitsuka Tiger, Neighborhood Goods, and Flannels. Working with VMO2 validated its technology, allowing them to seek other clients and point to its successful VMO2 trial as proof of the value of its product.

Spatial Insights is also being deployed through O2’s customer network in local government and councils, leisure venues, and transport hubs.

We continue to work with both Aura Vision and Virgin Media O2 to facilitate the process of integration and implementation.

Open Innovation: a win - win solution

In summary, our method gave VMO2 early access to technology that increased revenues and tackled a pain point and Aura Vision a quicker route to adoption by a corporate and scale to other corporates.

That is how we unlock business opportunities for corporates and start-ups pushing them further, faster, together.

If you’d like to learn more about how we work with corporates and start-ups to unlock business opportunities, get in touch.

"Wayra’s understanding of businesses, commercials and technology to scout the market, identify and qualify possible solutions was invaluable. It would have taken ages to do ourselves and they really accelerated the process."
Elizabeth Ponsford, 5G IoT Applications Lead, Virgin Media O2 Business

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