in-store beacon

By David Bozin

It is safe to say that our lives would no longer be the same without smartphones. With the tap of a few gestures on our screens, we are able to accomplish most things; order items from long distances, message our friends, take photos, and connect with anyone (and anything) from across the world. With the introduction of something called in-store beacon technology, retailers now have a chance to be closer to their customers than ever before. You may have heard the term “in-store beacon” thrown around lately, and not have a clue what this new technology really is. Let’s break it down for you.

So, in layman terms…

Beacons are a new type of device that communicate with smartphone apps over Bluetooth, allowing retailers to send notifications of advertisements, coupons, or related product information to their customers’ devices, incentivizing shopping behavior while they are in store and in doing so, collect valuable data about their customer’s purchase habits.

Imagine you are in the women’s clothing section of huge department store and have just been prompted to download the retailer’s app. Once downloaded and on your phone, you will instantly get a pop up notification about a buy-one-get-one-free promotion of summer bathing suits that you happened to have missed while walking into the store. How convenient! Beacon technology is the beginning of a new era in mobile advertising, using location-based bluetooth technology to trigger consumption behavior that would otherwise be lost in the shopping journey.

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What’s even slicker about this new technology is that the beacon is able to share information with the retailer about customer’s shopping habits and exact movements throughout a store, essentially mapping out the entire “journey” that the customer takes. This technology creates an infinite win-win situation for the customer and retailer alike. The retailer is able to obtain accurate and precise customer information that was never possible before, and uses this data to create tailored advertising strategies to promote their products that fit exactly into what their customers want, interacting with them in ways that is not intrusive.

All-in-all, How In-Store Beacons Benefit Retailers

Beacons have the potential to benefit retailers in a myriad of ways, but here are the top 3:

  1. Send essential information to the consumer in real time – It’s all about timing. Sending relevant information to the customer at the perfect time and place is like a great love story. Imagine getting a notification for a particular product that just so happened to be 5 feet away from you, there is no way a customer could resist such an offer. Now multiply this effect for every customer in your store.
  2. Collect necessary data about the customer for in-store use – Beacons allow retailers to collect consumer data and connect this with their in-store CRM program, giving them the ability to tailor and target messages to certain customers based on their individual shopping trends.
  3. Improved customer service and relationship-building – This new technology can assist retail employees with better customer service. Beacons have the potential to instantly populate CRM systems with the shopper’s profile and purchase history, which instantly helps sales staff on the floor to attend to the customer’s needs accordingly and accurately. By integrating the customers online shopping history with in-store movement and previous purchases, gives retailers a better perception of future products that could be suitable additions to the product inventory that would be more popular with customers.

So, where do the customers fit in?

So far, beacon technology sounds like every retailer’s dream. There are however still a few kinks that need to smoothed. In order for the beacon to communicate with mobile phones, customers will need to first download the store’s app, switch on their device’s Bluetooth and share their location. If an error with any of the steps aforementioned occurs, the beacon can’t do its job.

Those first to try this technology will most likely be those who are always open to finding the best deals and lowest prices. These customers will be the first to offer up certain amounts of personal data as long as they are able to see and feel how this benefits them. It is no surprise that the slowest ones to hop onto the bandwagon will be those who are concerned about privacy issues, the group of customers who feel uneasy allowing strangers to track their every movements. In actuality, one of the most important messages that retailers have to get across in order to successfully implement in-store beacons is to convince customers that the trade-off between them offering their data is worth the offers received on their phone; the benefits must be larger than the cost.

As with most things, new technology adoption takes time and there will certainly be a learning curve. For in-store beacons to best serve retailers, they must also benefit customers. Retailers who find that happy balance will ultimately win in the long run. After all, all but a few retailers can agree that data is the new “gold.”

David Bozin is the VP of Business Development at Bindo, a unique retail technology company with an innovative iPad POS system and soon-to-be launched online Marketplace. Follow Bindo at @shopBindo.