In-store Beacons: What Are They And What Do They Do For Retail?

As mobile phones have become more commonplace, mobile marketing strategies have become more progressive. In the past couple of years, retailers have installed in-store beacons to blur the line between online shopping and shopping in a brick and mortar store.

What Are In-Store Beacons?

Beacons are Bluetooth enabled devices that connect to mobile phones within the building, allowing retailers to send messages in real time based on where a shopper is in the store. For example, if you’re in the maternity section of a department store and have downloaded that store’s app, you might receive a message about a sale the store is having on infant clothing. A beacon shares information with the retailer about customers’ shopping habits and movements through a store. What the retailer does with that information is where the marketing strategies come into play.

How In-Store Beacons Benefit Retailers

Beacons have the potential to benefit retailers in three specific ways. First, they enable a store to send location specific messages to consumers in real time. It’s sniper-style direct marketing instead of the machine gun approach of (almost obsolete) newspaper ads. If you’ve ever walked down an aisle in the supermarket and seen coupon dispensers near that particular product, you’ve got the idea. Beacons, however, send the information to a customer’s personal device.

That leads us to the second benefit to retailers. Beacons allow retailers to collect consumer data. When that data is connected to customer loyalty information, the specific messages can be even more specific based on the individual’s previous shopping behavior. Imagine being able to offer loyalty points to customers just for stepping foot into the store with the app in hand.

Finally, the beacons can assist retail employees with customer service. Beacons have the potential to tell service representatives whether the shopper is a first-timer or a loyal customer. Sales staff on the floor can attend to their needs accordingly. Consolidate online shopping history with in-store movement and previous purchases to get a clear understanding of products that would likely be of interest to those who frequent the brick and mortar store.

How Do Customers Access In-Store Beacon Benefits?

This is where a great idea hits some bumps in the road. In order for the in-store beacon to communicate with a mobile phone, the customer has to do three things:

  •      Download the store’s app
  •      Have the Bluetooth on their phone turned on
  •      Share their location

It’s not a “three strikes and you’re out” situation. If any one of those things fails to happen, the beacon can’t do what it was created to do.

Early adapters of the beacon technology will likely be coupon clippers who are willing to offer up certain amounts of personal data as long as they see how it benefits them. Those who will be slower to engage are those who are concerned about privacy issues that surface with movement tracking and location sharing.

In short, retailers who choose to use in-store beacons must make consumers believe it’s worth it to receive store-specific notifications while they shop.

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