Retail Beacons – Loyalty & Engagement:
Remember the 2002 Tom Cruise film Minority Report, and how the retail advertisement systems in the mall scanned his character’s eyes and began offering personalized content? While we aren’t equipped to utilize mass commercial retinal scanning and identification, we do have a technology today that can act in a very similar way; Retail Beacons.
With the near universal adoption of smartphones, and the vast usage of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) within modern loyalty and retail applications, Beacons strategically placed within brick-and-mortar retail locations, are able to push notifications to users much in the way that personalized content was pushed to Tom Cruise in the film. Bluetooth low energy is what makes it happen, seeking out specific integrated applications on users’ smartphones, to be able to send highly relevant and hopefully personalized messages to the recipient.
Imagine walking into the GAP, and getting a message on your smartphone that the sweater you were looking at a few days ago is currently on sale, or stepping into BestBuy and being presented with a digital coupon for savings on a particular tablet or laptop you’ve been drooling over. As a retailer, imagine being able to draw customers into your store as they walk by with specifically targeted ads or offers, rather than just the in-window displays. In addition to the ability to send push notifications to a smartphones, beacons can accurately pinpoint a smartphone equipped customer’s location within centimeters, not to mention the power savings for mobile devices, making them ideal for location based technology over GPS, NFC and Wi-Fi.
Benefits for Retailers:
For retailers it’s a way to engage with their clients like never before, but caution needs to be utilized by the retailer. For example, it can be a bit trying for some customers to be harangued by your stores’ staff the moment they walk into your brick and mortar location, or repeated offers of assistance when they may just be browsing. The same level of intensity (or lack thereof) needs to be applied to your beacon strategy; which needs to be personalized and attentive, without seeming pushy or invasive.
Think about the same when it comes to your E-Commerce site, where the user is browsing your inventory and being invaded by live-chat offers or pop-ups; there’s a fine line to walk between pro-active marketing assistance and invasion. Then again, some may be nonplussed by the notifications, and if they find it irrelevant or annoying, can dismiss it or ignore it. Based on the latest findings by several marketing agencies, what consumers want in this day and age is personalization and relevancy.
Customer Relations, Engagement and Loyalty:
By pairing your loyalty/store applications to your company’s CRM, a wealth of information is centrally located and available to your Marketing teams (See our CRM: Single View of the Customer article) to be able to create highly personalized messages that, in effect, get pushed from the CRM, through the beacon’s BLE technology and directly into the hands of the consumer as soon as they draw close to the beacon itself.
“Think about it, and you realize that beaconing has been the missing piece in the whole mobile-shopping puzzle. The technology is essentially invisible and can work without the mobile consumer having to do anything – usually a major hurdle for any mobile shopping technology. The shopper only has to agree in advance to receive such messages as they shop.”
The above quote presents the one caveat to this wonderful technology, the Consumer’s choice to opt in/opt out. In a 2015 report by the Merkle advertising agency (Shopper Expectations 2015: Insights from the 2015 Digital Shopping Survey) showed that there was a marked reticence from customers to share information with retailers, in light of numerous credit card and security breaches at large retailers, showing as much as 80% of consumers (across all age demographics) changed where they shop as a result of these breaches.
The same study showed the majority of respondents were comfortable sharing their name, email address and gender, rather than more relevant information Marketers could use like their birthday, household income, relationship status, etc.
Email is still the preferred method of communication across all demographics, however in a 2014 study by Swirl shows that beacons are starting to gain ground across the North American retail landscape:
These figures show that digital engagement with the customer, as it relates to beacons, drives store traffic in significant ways, creating loyalty and value between the customer and your brand. The beauty to running in-store advertisement to customers is that you need them only to download your application, and enable both the location and Bluetooth settings on their phones to receive the messages.
Privacy and Security:
For customers, privacy and security are ensured because of the privacy specifications that were adopted for Bluetooth technology, and will only receive ads and promotions if they specifically allow the retailer to by granting permission. These safeguards in effect mean that if the customer tires of the offerings from the retailer every time you draw near their beacons, they would only have to opt out to prevent the messages from reaching them anymore.
For retailers, once the customer has enabled the application settings and given permission, the app does not need to be running or even open for your digital offerings to be pushed to their phones, the crux for retailers is that they will need to focus on creating compelling content to ensure consumers continue to opt in and find value in the notifications.
What’s in it for the Customer?
All of the latest studies on Retail Marketing show that consumers want value and personalization, and agree to share their information only if it is beneficial to them; for Retailers this means doubling down and finding ways to approach customers on a one-to-one basis, treating them as valuable individuals rather than just pandering to the masses with irrelevant offerings.
Another benefit of the Beacons is through analyzing customer traffic; being able to see what areas of the store or even specific items the customers were viewing, or if they visit multiple store locations; but again the one caveat is that the consumers need to have the store application, have enabled the location and Bluetooth settings, and have opted in to receiving the push notifications, etc.
The Beacon Connected Store Concept:
PayPal has taken this to a whole other level with being able to offer contactless payments through their PayPal wallet app, whether or not you have a Wi-Fi or a mobile data connection on your phone. Announced in 2013, the concept is a simple yet effective one. By visiting a participating PayPal merchant, when your smartphone is detected by the PayPal beacon, it automatically checks you in, and your name and photo are relayed to the POS (ostensibly so you can be greeted by name).
When you have finished shopping, and approach the POS, the Merchant will confirm your method of payment, if via PayPal, then the merchant will select your name and photo from their display, and submit a call to PayPal for authorization with the customer never having to take out their wallet or phone, nor key in a pin or use their thumb print. As an extra layer of security, when the customer first visits the store, they will be prompted with a notification from the app asking if they would like to check in, if they decline or ignore the prompt, their information is never shared with PayPal or the Merchant. As it should be, the power, privacy and security, and ultimately the choice, are in the hands of the consumer.
Another new advancement in the world of Beacon technology comes from Ubudu, who’s Mesh Network beacons allow for two way communication. Unlike standard beacons (Estimote, BKON, iBeacons), mesh beacons can both send messages to a mobile device, as well as receive messages back from the user without being paired with the device.
For retailers, this could present a great interactive experience, in where a customer looking for a specific sized article of clothing, or having trouble locating an item in store, could request help from a sales clerk without having to go searching across the store for them. Mesh beacons are also much more advanced than their standard counterparts, as they are able to not only send and receive messages, but also are able to communicate with other mesh beacons within the store, to be able to send highly variable messages.
“…cell phones become nodes along with the mesh beacons, as they are able to receive and send data from the mesh network. Conventional beacons send ‘the same location message at a regular interval.’ By contrast, our mesh beacons send out various messages to other devices, including other mesh beacons and smartphones.”
Beacons, integrated CRM, clienteling are all integral components in reaching the new Omni-channel customer on a personal front. Being able to entice the new-world customer depends on how well you can get to know their tastes and wants, without crossing their own personal lines of privacy concerns.
If you are able to build and show value to the customer, demonstrate that you understand their needs and wants as a consumer, as well as safeguarding their privacy and security, then you are on your way to the type of Loyalty required to survive in the Omni-channel sales arena. Business Insider predicts that for 2015, $4.1 Billion in retail sales will be influenced by beacons, and in the following year where 85% of the top 100 US retailers deploy beacons, they estimate a total of $44.4 Billion in beacon-influenced sales, food for thought.
At Advantage2Retail, we keep track of all the latest Retail advancements in technology to keep our clients up-to-date and ready to face the customer of tomorrow. Are you ready? Contact us today.
More information on Retail Beacons: