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Future Proofing Your Brand: Why Beacon Technology is the Next Generation of Retail

What does it mean to future proof your brand? It means making sure your company adapts to the ways consumers want to interact with your brand. The consequences of not future-proofing your brand can be dire. You do not need to look any further than WAMU (Washington Mutual Bank). When it filed for bankruptcy in 2008, it became the largest bank failure in US history. Prior to that, WAMU had assets of over $300 billion and operated more than 2300 bank branches in 15 states with 43,000 employees. 

If the bank were still operating today with the same asset base, it would be the 9th largest bank in the US just behind Morgan Stanley and US Bancorp. Despite what many in the sector believed, WAMU was not in fact too big to fail and it should have thought more carefully about future-proofing its brand.

In our last Future Proofing Your Brand post, we wrote about how cashless and self-checkout were becoming table stakes in a retail environment where customers waiting in line for any length of time could create significant dissatisfaction and erode brand equity.

Today we will discuss an equally important step in keeping your firm out of the dead pool – leveraging beacon technology to empower a new sort of mobile experience – one that happens in-store - that will create a larger positive change in the overall retail customer experience than any of the innovations that we have discussed in this future-proofing series.

Beacons are one of the least understood new technologies that will help usher a company into the next generation of retail. The biggest misconception around beacons is when they do and don’t work with a given mobile device. In general, there are four conditions that must be met in order for a beacon to work.

First, the beacon needs to be transmitting. Second, the customer’s mobile device needs to be on with Bluetooth enabled. Third, the customer needs to have installed the retailer’s mobile app. And, finally, the customer needs to have given permission for the app to share location data (this usually occurs at installation).

What most consumers and retailers alike don’t know is that the app doesn’t have to be running in order for the device to be recognized, its location tracked and messages delivered. Once beacons are in place, there are virtually endless ways in which they can be leveraged to serve up a better in-store experience. Below are a few of our favorites.

1) Offering Dynamic Sales and Couponing – Because the beacon can track a device’s location within a couple of feet, the customer can be offered a discount or alerted to a sale right as they are passing an item.

2) Extending Loyalty Programs – The same location based technology could be used to seamlessly reward a customer for visiting a real life store front or even for browsing a certain product. Imagine the following enticement. “Drop by any of our stores and earn 5 bonus dollars that can be redeemed towards future purchases”.

3) Empowering Sales Associates – The communication that beacons facilitate doesn’t have to be device to device. Once a beacon has noticed a known customer, that information can be shared with sales associates so they can greet that customer by name.

4) Combining Real-time and Historical Data – In the example above, not only could a customer be recognized and greeted by name, but the sales associate could be made aware of the customer’s last few purchases, as well as the items that he or she recently had in their online/mobile shopping cart or any item that the customer virtually browsed.

In this and the five previous Future Proof Your Brand blog posts we have examined trends and technologies that will dramatically transform the way that consumers interact with retail brands. The exciting and scary thing about this brave new world of retail is that it’s already here. And, if your brand doesn’t embrace these trends and technologies, there could be dire circumstances. First and foremost is having a good mobile strategy that includes a dedicated app.

Next is leveraging that mobile strategy to deliver both a stellar virtual shopping experiences as well an enhanced physical shopping experience. One must also place well calculated bets on other non-mobile technologies – such as next generation payments, cashless/self-checkout and new ways of delivering products that will make consumers’ lives easier. And finally, brands must responsibly leverage all of the new data that will be created by this mobile-first ecosystem to further iterate and add value to their customers.

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Phil Granof, CMO

Phil is an award winning marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in marketing strategy and brand development. Prior to NewStore, Phil was Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Black Duck Software, a global enterprise software company where he successfully repositioned the entire brand, built a modern marketing organization, and simultaneously redefined an industry. As Chief Marketing Officer of NewStore, Phil combines his analytical data-driven approach to marketing with creative vision to oversee Demand Generation, Product Marketing and Management, Brand Development and Corporate Communications.

Topics: Beacon Technology