Gimbal, NextNav Go Vertical with Next-Generation Location Offering

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The 700% growth in curbside pickup sales that Target saw during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t a fluke. Across the country, at retailers big and small, curbside pickup has major appeal. The momentum that began in 2020 shows no signs of slowing down as we head further into 2021, with retailers looking for new ways to streamline their curbside and BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) operations. 

Now, with a new partnership announced just this morning, Gimbal and NextNav are poised to become major players in this space.

Gimbal, the location intelligence platform, and NextNav, the developer of geolocation technologies, are coming together on a new vertical dimension that could help brands and retailers more accurately understand how customers are moving through physical spaces. The potential applications are vast, but executives at both firms see fulfillment options like curbside and in-store pickup as being some of the most immediate use cases.

Tapping into the Z-axis

According to the National Retail Federation, 83% of households say convenience is more important to their buying decisions now than it was five years ago. The pandemic fueled the popularity of curbside pickup and BOPIS, but current technologies have led to operational inefficiencies that Gimbal and NextNav are hoping to streamline with the development of a rarely discussed dimension: the Z-axis. The new dimension takes vertical height into account when determining location, so brands and retailers can better understand what floor or level a consumer is on when they enter a geofenced boundary. Consider a parking garage or multi-story mall, where consumers could be in the geographic space without being anywhere near the actual entrance. 

“Most retailers in urban markets are located in multi-story buildings, and so are their customers,” says Dan Hight, Vice President and General Manager of Data Partnerships at NextNav. “Vertical location provides everything from improved customer attribution, linking in-store purchases to customer behavior, to accurate time of arrival information, predicting when people will pick things up.”  

Currently, tracking vertical location requires beacons and other infrastructure that Hight says can be prohibitively expensive to install. With its new offering, NextNav is looking to provide retailers and brands with accurate vertical location using the hardware that already exists in consumers’ mobile phones. 

Layering Data for Relevant Insights

This layered contextual data creates additional marketing opportunities that go beyond curbside pickup. For example, it could allow stadium vendors to deliver mobile food orders to fans in their seats, and it could lead to improved customer service for department store retailers that can locate customers in a specific department. Triggering notifications or in-app experiences as users pass by floor-specific products is another example of how the Z-axis could be utilized. 

“Today’s location technology would show a three level shopping center as a flat, 2D map – not very helpful if you want to find out who’s actually visiting your store and what they’re doing there. Only with a full 3D data set can you glean relevant insights about who or where your customers are,” Hight says. “With these detailed insights in hand, retailers can offer a very different shopping experience.”

Hight expects the additional layer of location granularity to be a game changer for brands and retailers with a disproportionate number of locations in urban areas where GPS is less reliable, as well as any retailers and restaurants whose customers are traveling from their apartments and condos above ground level.

Looking forward, Hight says the next step in the partnership between NextNav and Gimbal is complete integration of the NextNav Pinnacle service. That could come as early as the second quarter of this year. He expects the partnership to pave the way for new innovations in customer experience, given that Gimbal’s On-the-Way software and NextNav’s Pinnacle solution are complementary products.

“Vertical location will first appear as part of Gimbal’s On the Way SDK service, as well as their stadium and hospitality product offerings,” he says. “The full rollout across Gimbal’s product suite is expected late Q2, early Q3.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.