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Digital commerce: five ways beacons can transform retail

Digital commerce: five ways beacons can transform retail

Thursday October 29, 2015 , 4 min Read

For the last several years, with all the excitement surrounding e-commerce, mobile has contributed to the continued decline of brick-and-mortar sales, while online shopping is steadily growing.

But, as much as we would like to believe that everything will move digital, it is important to understand that even in the US where most retailers are omni-channel, 95 per cent of retail business still happens at the physical store.


We see an emerging trend, a world where online and offline shopping coexist rather than compete. If technology were to be blamed for the online vs. offline divide, it is now bringing the consumer and retailer together like never before.

Retailers have an opportunity to explore how technology can be used to supplement offline shopping experiences, help consumers discover products from retail, and create consumer experiences that adapt to the changing consumer behaviour and trend.

Welcome to the world of beacons. Beacons are small, battery-operated, low-cost wireless devices that continuously transmit a simple low-energy Bluetooth signal saying:"Hello, this is me, here is my ID." Apps on smartphones can pick up these signals, perform various actions based on the ID, micro location, proximity, time, and user’s context to deliver rich contextual and personalised experiences.

1. Identify and connect: Spot nearby customers, greet them and guide them into your store.

Imagine a world where you could identify a potential customer amongst the hundreds of people who walk by your store; greet them, say hello and invite them over to your store. Even if your app is not running,beacons can wake up your app (more about this in a future post).

2. Engage based on consumers taste and preferences: Advertise relevant information on products, special offers and deals.

In a world of broadcast, how can we narrow-cast our messages to be more precise, direct and efficient, so that we could delight our customers and not bother the ones who are not in our target group?

Communication should be in sync with the brand’s overall marketing strategy and should seamlessly integrate to take advantage of the devices in proximity, use familiar communications platforms to make sure that the consumer feels comfortable, and is able to shift the focus away from the device to the message.

3. Delightful in-store experiences: Assist customers in finding specific items with in-store navigation.

Customer walks into the store to find thousands of products, long aisles, multiple floors and inefficient support staff. Beacons save time, energy and resources by helping consumers find relevant information quickly, provide new information based on location as users walk around, alert on products that are of high interest, drive discovery, simplify and ease checkout processes, and reduce waiting lines with digital payments and receipts.

4. Drive insights: Get insights into customer behaviour and feed them back into CRM.

Understand footfall patterns, entry and exit data, amount of time spent, visited locations, heatmaps, trends, repeat visits, and purchase history all in real time. Beacons help drive up consumer engagement, build loyalty solutions, increase efficiencies and capture actionable shopper insights

5. Privacy, location services and why not to be a pest

Beacons themselves don’t collect any data nor send any marketing messages to your phone. They broadcast an ID, your smartphone uses that ID to understand the location and context. So, in effect, beacons don’t track you; your phones track a beacon.

Apps using location must do an effective job in explaining why and what they collect and have policies to delete the history of a user’s location. It is important to have the consumers trust and have the apps deliver value for them to allow for location services.

Beacons open up a world of new possibilities, and it is quite natural that it will be widely used and implemented by all types of businesses, big or small. One thing to remember is that no one likes a pest, either in the retail world or online.