Beacons in Retail
Beacons in retail have infinite possibilities – loyalty, coupons, data analysis, and so on. Below are some of the most common and useful cases.
Finding your favorite brands
Several use cases involve the difficulty of finding a particular display within a larger department store. For example, a brand may seek to create a means by which customers can locate its products within a store.
Reload Labs, manufacturer of refillable perfume cartridges, has partnered with Beaconinside to create an in-store loyalty program. Reload is a product and brand with displays in 1300 stores worldwide. As they don’t have their own store, they are using beacons – one in each display – to allow their customers to locate their product within department stores. Reload has an app which will provide notifications and special deals to its users, but department stores will also be able to integrate the beacon with their own apps if they are also embracing beacon technology.
Other initiatives are not on behalf of specific brands, but partnerships between brands, retailers, and the fashion industry as whole, to use beacons to aid people in buying stylish clothing.
Elle Magazine has partnered with shopping apps RetailMeNot and ShopAdvisor (audiences upward of 25 million), as well as many retailers, to create a system that gives consumers shopping and fashion advice and brands and retailers new sales. This system is powered by beacons within retail establishments that detect users of the apps within the store and send them a notification encouraging them to “Shop Now with Elle!” Consumers are then able to browse content from the current issue of Elle, including finding items which were featured in the most recent issue and are available for purchase in the store they’re currently in. The content includes items in many establishments and by many brands.
While many retail cases are customer facing, many are focused on gathering insights from customer behavior.
ebebek, a large Turkish retailer of all things babies, has partnered with Beaconinside and intelliAd to create a beacon infrastructure allowing the store to simulate online shopping analytics for in-store interactions.
20 or 25 beacons have been placed in each of ebebek’s 50 brick and mortar locations, which interact with ebebek’s app. This allows them to integrate in-store behavior, including linger time and traffic patterns, with online interactions such as social media interaction and pages viewed. With the combination of these data ebebek is able to reconstruct a complete customer journey – hopefully ending in a sale.
Some retailers are using beacons to try to make conversion happen. The customer has already made it to your store, or at least very close to your store, so how do you get them to buy something? There are various solutions, but most involve sending out push notifications reminding consumers of ongoing specials or simply that your store exists.
Apple was the first company to do a complete roll-out of in-store iBeacon, owing to them having invented the concept. The Apple Store App already existed, so adding iBeacon functionality was only a matter of shipping an update. The update adds many new functionalities, including checking out via smartphone and picking up online orders. As customers walk through the store they receive push notifications which are hyper-local. For example a customer walking through the iPhone section may receive a notification encouraging them to check their upgrade availability, where a customer browsing MacBooks may receive a link to online reviews. The beacon system works only for iOS users, of course.
Apple has a large enough brand following to convince users to download an app just for their brand, but most brands do not have that luxury. Solutionis are emerging to fight this barrier, such as having an app for a whole mall or, ideally, one app to rule them all.
GeoMall, a startup out of South Africa has created a way for individual retailers housed within large shopping centers to attract customers. Consumers will download one app for all participating malls, and then select which stores and brands they are interested in. When a consumer enters an enabled mall, they will receive notifications from brands and stores they follow, potentially highlighting sales and giving directions. Retailers will pay for the service and be completely able to customize which messages get sent to customers at various times and locations. GeoMall is also hoping to integrate mobile payment.
Another way to circumvent the app download challenge is to use an app that people already have on their phone. Shazam, the “what’s that song that’s playing right now” app, is seeking to eliminate the app-download difficulty by becoming the single app that interacts with the beacons of many retailers. Shazam has been integrated with a beacon interaction SDK, meaning that any venue wishing to implement beacon advertising, be it a store or a stadium, can choose to use Shazam for implementation instead of its own app, accessing the app’s 100 million monthly users. This hopes to accelerate the adoption of beacon technology from both a brand and consumer perspective.
Sometimes the line between walking out of the store empty handed and buying something is how much you know about the product. That said, doing independent research in the middle of the store or locating an employee to interogate are not great options for getting the much needed information. Some companies who do not wish to send out push notifications are finding it useful to use beacons for the purpose of disseminating information.
Gamestop, a video game store based in the USA, has installed a beacon system that pairs with two apps – one customer facing and one employee facing – to optimize the customer experience in the hope of competing with online retailers. Customers receive a welcome message upon entering the store and are thereafter able to get information about various displays by holding their phone near the attached beacon. An associate-facing app shows which customers are expressing interest in various games. This will allow consumers to make more informed decisions and spend less time in store while allowing Gamestop to optimize the chances of a consumer purchasing in-store instead of later online.