Beacons are one of the least understood new technologies that will help usher companies into the next generation of retail. In general, four conditions must be met in order for beacons 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 the retailer’s mobile app installed. Finally, the customer needs to have already 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, they can be leveraged in virtually endless ways to serve up a better in-store experience by delivering a stream of data that can be used on the spot by a retail associate or later by trend seekers crunching numbers and looking for trends.
Why implement beacon technology?
- Extend loyalty programs. The same location-based technology could be used to seamlessly reward a customer for visiting a real-life storefront or even for browsing a certain product. Imagine the following enticement: “Drop by any of our stores and earn five bonus dollars that can be redeemed toward future purchases.”
- Empower sales associates. The communication that beacons facilitate doesn’t have to be device to device. Once a beacon notices a known customer, that information can be shared with sales associates so they can greet that customer by name, if that’s the customer’s preference.
- Combine real-time and historical data. Not only can customers be recognized and greeted by name, but also the sales associates can be made aware of the customers’ last few purchases as well as the items they recently placed in their online/ mobile shopping carts, or any items they virtually browsed.
- Offer dynamic sales and couponing. Because the beacon can track a device’s location within a couple of feet, customers can be offered a discount or alerted to a sale right as they pass an item.
Even if the store is using cutting-edge technology, the transformation of data in the retail environment comes with challenges.