While it’s still something of a novelty in UK retail, Beacon technology is on the rise and you should expect to see it coming to a store near you in the very near future. Eat, Coca-Coca, The Swan Shopping Centre in Eastleigh and William Hill have all trialed the technology and have reported some excellent results.
As with any new innovation, there will be winners – mainly retailers who are savvy enough to reap the benefits of Beacon technology – and losers, mainly existing platforms that will become defunct.
Winner: Operations managers
Beacons can track shoppers via their mobile phone as they move around a store, meaning retailers can see hour-by-hour live footfall statistics across their entire estate. This data is invaluable to operations managers who can use it to streamline operations, optimise staffing and plan in-store promotions.
Winner: Multichannel retailers
Beacon technology is a superior tool for providing personalised loyalty offers. It can help segment by demographics, previous online purchase behaviour, lapsed returning visitors, or even heavy app users so that messages can be highly tailored to individual shoppers. Multichannel retailers can use online activity and purchase behaviour to trigger targeted messages in the bricks and mortar store.
Winner: Fashion and electronics stores
One of the most important aspects of shopping is experience, and Beacon technology is the ideal tool for storytelling in-store. Messages are triggered by proximity to the beacons and require no action from the shopper. Notifications can be used to tell a story around a store – from providing videos about particular fashion collections, product promotions on the floor or a map of the store.
So what of the losers?
Loser: Accidental spammers
Many brands are still very bad at sending targeted emails with valuable content, so why would they change their ways simply because there is a new technology available? Mindset is key and some brands simply don’t get the concept of value exchange. If retailers abuse beacon technology – which is akin to intrusive spam – it could spoil the opportunity it holds for those who are intent on doing a good job with it.
Loser: QR codes in store
Simply put, QR codes are clunky, slow and require an app that very few people use. Frequently too they battle with poor wifi access in store; it’s the wrong tech in the wrong context. Many shoppers simply don’t want to view an augmented reality brand offering when they’re doing the weekly shop. Add value or leave me alone is the attitude that brands have to deal with.
Installed on many Android phones, but not iPhones, Apple has gone with Bluetooth and beacons instead. While touching a card against an NFC reader is great for payments, beacons are much more flexible for brands and retailers when it comes to offers, promotions and added value messaging as users have to make much less of an effort.
Beacon technology is invaluable when it comes to the in-store experience. Personalisation is no longer a ‘nice to have’ for shoppers – it’s mandatory. Beacon technology provides retailers with an opportunity to go beyond the fixtures and fittings of the physical store to create an engaging and meaningful brand story and experience. It’s very much a case of technology providing a way for bricks and mortar stores to fight back against the challenges posed by online. It will be interesting to see which brands and retailers really push the boundaries in the months ahead.
Viv Craske is head of digital at Live & Breathe