Beacons are essentially ‘GPS for indoors’, which allow for proximity-based personalised notifications and alerts. In retail stores, customers can be prompted according to their location, so that promotion and offers can be targeted with greater precision. It is one of the most exciting technological inventions to hit consumer retail in the last few years, and there’s great potential to use these tiny pieces of hardware in clever and creative ways to drive in-store commerce. We’ve written about ‘How Beacons are Poised to take Brick-and-Mortar Sales by a Storm’ and how retailers are catching up to this trend.
iBeacon technology opens doors to engage customers where it matters most, benefiting both the customer and the business. In the last few weeks, we have discussed how beacons can be used in museums, stadiums, hotels, airports, and events. In this post, let’s discuss how marketers can use beacons to enhance customer experiences in-store.
In a retail scenario, the typical use cases for beacons are to:
- Greet customers
- Send proximity-based offers and coupons
- Give customers access to loyalty program-related information
- Enable contactless payments
- Upsell relevant products
We are all aware that the best use of beacons is: sending contextual content — be it in-store welcome greetings, sale alerts, offers, discounts and product information. Here are some of the best practices retailers and brands can adopt to truly revolutionize the customer retail experience:
1. Optimize Merchandise with Analytics – Beacons provide retailers with endless opportunities to collect massive amounts of untapped data. The data can be about the number of beacon hits and customer dwell time at a particular section within a specified time and date range, busiest hours through the whole day or week, number of people who walk by a department each day etc., and make improvements to products and services accordingly. You can also determine traffic patterns in your store using micro-location information.
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Further, it also helps retailers to choose locations and optimize store layouts and product placement based on navigational patterns. You can also count the number of visits made by a customer before he/she made an in-store purchase, how often customers use apps while in-store etc., and use these data to come up with new store layouts and sales strategies.
Alex and Ani, a jewelry brand, recently deployed beacons in an effort to retain customers and subtly encourage them to make more purchases. It also helps them compare various merchandise offerings by testing out different positioning of items around the store. Say for example, if they notice that their customer base has shifted to mostly men ahead of Valentine’s Day, then realigning products in store could result in better sales.
Image Source: RFID Journal
Retailers can even tie back this data into their e-commerce system, to optimize their home page, merchandising zones on desktop and mobile such that it matches the customer behavior from city to city.
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2. Customer Engagement: Beacons have the potential to take customer engagement to a different level altogether. Contextual information gives customers access to rich product information such as videos at the right time. The information is specific to where they are in a store. This technology can be transformational for retailers allowing them to understand customer behavior and catering to their information needs accordingly.
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The smartphone thus plays an integral role in offering sophisticated in-store experiences, informing and driving buying decisions when it matters most. For retailers and brands, it is a new way to drive sales by influencing consumers with offers at the ‘moment of truth’.
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To leverage beacons most effectively for customer engagement:
- Send valuable, relevant messages through your app’s push notifications
- Tailor beacon-triggered messages based on individual app preferences and behaviors
- Track responses to those messages as additional signals about users’ interests and preferences for ongoing segmentation
Kenneth Cole, the American fashion brand saw a significant lift in app open rates and offer redemption rates after enabling beacon-triggered notifications. It was able to provide value and offers at the time of need when customers were in the store.
Image Source: ibeacon.net.au
Though iBeacon technology offers enormous potential for customer engagement and enhanced consumer experience, the key lies in providing context around location and proximity; making it more filtered and more relevant.
3. Empower Sales Associates: Retailers can incorporate device-to-device BLE services, to allow their customers to reach out to sales associates from within an app, when in need of assistance. Stores today are looking to empower sales associates with a full view of every customer. This encompasses purchase history, location, shopping preferences, social profile which gives access to relevant shopping information such as birthdays and anniversaries. According to a recent research by eBay, up to 85% of retailers lose out on this kind of information from potential shoppers because their customers enter and leave the store anonymously.
Beacons can also be set up to read other customer information, such as items in wishlist, preferences based on Pinterest pins etc., Relaying such important information about your customer to sales associates will help them get a better idea on how they should approach the customer.
[Tweet “Staff in physical stores need to regard the web as an asset rather than a competitor”]
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4. Contextual Relevancy: Retailers shouldn’t underestimate the value of the perpetually connected consumer. According to reports, 32% of shoppers already use mobile shopping apps, and are willing to try proximity-based apps, because they expect personalized marketing messages in-store.
Contextual relevancy is key. A grocery store shopper may seek a deal on an ingredient for a saved recipe on Epicurious, while a traveler may prefer mobile check-in functionality. While the possibilities for engagement are limitless, marketers need to understand each step in the customer journey and provide contextually relevant functionality specific to the location.
Retailers can leverage beacons in-store to push notifications on suggestions to add to what a customer has already bought, via their app.This could be a suggestion to “complete the look” by notifying about a shirt that matches with a blazer that the shopper bought online. When a user taps on the notification, they can view the suggestion and add the items to their shopping list.
[Tweet “32% of shoppers are willing to try proximity-based apps while shopping”]
McCormicks Zatarain’s brand was the first CPG brand to leverage iBeacon enabled apps to deliver special recipe content and product finder information when shoppers walked into grocery stores. The brand took the guess work out of ‘how to prepare a quick and easy dinner’ and directed the shopper to the exact location in the store where he/she could pick up a package of rice. The in-app beacon campaign enables shoppers to receive grocery list reminders and loyalty points from the food and spice brand on their mobile phones.
Image Source: Keyringapp
5. Contactless Payments: Beacons can be used in-store to allow shoppers to buy a product in real time using a mobile device without having to use physical payment options such as cash and credit cards. It also informs passers by about various schemes and special offers when they are near a particular store.
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Paypal has its own beacon that sends out a Bluetooth low energy signal to anyone with the Paypal app.
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6. Digital Loyalty: Most retail stores send weekly emails on time-sensitive sales or offers with bonus points for loyalty card holders. Customers, however, tend to forget about it when they are busy shopping in-store.
Retailers can notify customers about deals as soon as they enter the store. The notification can give them an overview of the number of accumulated loyalty points on the shopper’s mobile app and offer personalized alerts and high-value rewards. For example, if there is a product on a customer’s online wish list, the company can offer a discount on that product when they visit the physical store.
7. Customer Rewards System: Retailers can use beacons’ bluetooth network to set up a customer-reward system that allows customers to earn points upon scanning items or entering the store, that they can later exchange for coupons. Such systems will give you a better understanding of how the online and offline behaviour of customers at your store are tied together.
[Tweet ” Understand how the online and offline behaviour of customers are tied together”]
Marriott International, a leading hospitality company, recently added two features to it’s loyalty program—LocalPerks and FlashPerks. These features link social media activity on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to loyalty points. Beacons placed around the lobbies and other areas push out on-property offers specific to the hotel. The flash deals portion of the program, FlashPerks turns reward points into virtual currency that can be used to buy deals and branded experiences.
Image Source: Marriott International
8. In-store Navigation: While most other retailers are focusing on using iBeacon technology to trigger sales, Tesco recently leveraged beacons to offer better in-store customer service.
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The grocery store giant, is piloting beacons in its Chelmsford location as part of an experiment with a specific app called MyStore. The app allows customers to create a shopping list at home and, when they arrive at a store, beacons notify them about their online order being ready for pickup. This way they aim to use push messaging to add value to their customers’ shopping experience.
Image Source: Twinkle magazine.nl
9. Personalization: You can target your customers with truly personalized offers by syncing your customers’ shopping lists, wishlists and favourites with your app. Using these bits of information, you can either help them locate the items that are available in-store by guiding them to the particular aisle, or offer special discounts on those items. By implementing in-store reminders on purchases, you can ensure that your customers never forget to pick up the things they need. The customer feels ‘cared for’ in such instances and your beacon-enabled app becomes their personal concierge.
[Tweet “Make your customers feel ‘cared for’ through your beacon-enabled app”]
10. Combination of Online and Offline Shopping: Retail stores are now offering features such as “reserve-in-store” and “click to collect”. These features let online shoppers reserve the item they want in a store nearby (the nearest store is suggested based on their GPS information) so they can pick it up instead of having it shipped. One would have thought that customers would just buy the product online with a single click, but they don’t. The reason could partially be to avoid shipping costs, but the freedom to choose this option plays a significant role here.
[Tweet “Use beacons to make the buying experience more engaging and less annoying”]
The precision that beacons offer, combined with data from manufacturers and advertisers will make the buying experience more engaging and less annoying. Rather than smashing customers with notifications, the laser precision of a beacon-triggered notification uses contextual signals to talk to them when it matters the most.
If you are planning a beacon pilot, take a look at Beaconstac, that includes everything you need to get started. Using Beaconstac you can set up your own campaign, without a developer’s help!