Taylor Romero's DIY Path to an Internet-Connected Store

With his barbershop and men's boutique Spruce, Taylor Romero forged his own path to smart retail.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Rather than using a login and password, customers can use their phones to book an appointment by providing only their smartphone numbers. Once Spruce receives a phone number, it sends that new customer a special link that he can open on his phone. This provides the customer with access to the booking system, where he can set up his profile and book an appointment.

Now, if a new customer who has booked an appointment this way enters Spruce and tries to connect to the store's Wi-Fi network, the Raspberry Pi hotspot will send that person's phone a prompt to enter his phone number in order to access the Wi-Fi.

Whenever the button is pressed, all working employees receive a message on their phones, alerting them all that someone was turned away.
On the back end, Romero's program then links the MAC address of the customer's device with that individual's profile, based on the phone number presented. In this way, Spruce tracks every time the customer visits the store, because on subsequent visits, the phone will autoconnect to the shop's Wi-Fi network, again transmitting the device's MAC address.

Once a customer's phone is set to autoconnect to the store's guest Wi-Fi network upon entering the hotspot, workers will also receive a notification via Slack whenever that customer enters the store, along with his name and headshot (if provided when the profile was set up). They can use this information to greet the new arrival.

"You would be surprised how powerful it is to welcome [customers] to your shop by name," Romero says.

But even if someone walks into the store and has never used the phone-based booking system, he can access the spruce-guest Wi-Fi network by providing his phone number and creating a profile on the spot.

"From there, we upped it a little more," Romero states. "Now, when your phone autoconnects when you enter the store, we send you a link to a scratch-and-win game." The prizes include such perks as a 10 percent discount on the customer's next haircut.

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