Only a year ago, online and mobile shopping hit tipping points, overtaking brick-and-mortar shopping. Some analysts were sounding a death knell for the in-store experience. In part, this was due to growing customer demands for instant service accommodation, product availability, and an easy, personalized experience.
Yet, in the past year, the landscape has changed. Retailers that have been able to integrate online and mobile technologies into a connected customer journey that integrates the physical location have been able to actually offer more personalization and new buying opportunities. For example, solutions like Click & Collect allow customers to buy online and retrieve their purchase in store, often prompting additional sales because of relevant on-premise context marketing. In the store environment, automatic check-in using loyalty cards can notify employees about customers, informing a more personalized and productive shopping experience.
Beacon technology is another incredibly valuable step in the customer journey. Apple introduced ‘iBeacon’ technology in 2013. In 2015, it drove $4 billion in retail sales, and in 2016, that number is expected to reach $44 billion. This staggering growth rate reflects how important it is for retailers to respond to their customers’ demands for a seamless and personalized customer journey between each channel from selection to purchase.
The value of beacon technology is similar to how Click & Collect streamlines online and onsite shopping, and how self check-in informs and personalizes the retail experience. By combining the power of mobile apps and geofencing capabilities, beacon is revolutionizing how retailers can connect purposefully with customers in their environment.
How does beacon technology work?
Beacon technology orients mobile applications on a micro-local scale so it can push hyper-contextual content to a smartphone user based on his or her location. It allows retailers to leverage location-based data to interact with each customer. As a customer with the retailer’s app comes into proximity, the retailer can connect with them.
The store app on the customer’s smartphone ‘listens’ for a beacon housed in the retailer’s platform and connects to it via a low energy form of Bluetooth. It communicates relevant customer data to the central server. That connection then triggers communication that personalizes the experience and strengthens the connection.
What is the value of beacon technology?
To date, most of the articles and information about beacons has been centered on using the technology for smart wayfinding and pushing context marketing, Qmatic has identified a higher level of usefulness for organizations seeking to enrich the connection with their customer, patient, or citizen.
Using the same geofencing capabilities, beacons provide a direct, straightforward connection between customer and service staff in four important ways:
- As a customer enters the location, they are given information about services available within, estimated wait times, and the opportunity to claim a virtual ticket to a queue so they are already in line for service the moment they enter the environment.
- Within the environment, customers can view and request service from employees working on the ‘floor’ nearby, speeding service and reducing the frustration of having to look for assistance.
- Particularly in large environments, provide wayfinding by matching the service requested with the best available resource in the vicinity.
- As service is wrapping up, put the opportunity for the customer, patient, or citizen to give immediate feedback about their experience – feeding business intelligence, and communicating that you value the patron.
For customers, the messages received through beacon technology can help to inform the shopping journey. For retailers, beacon technology is a great opportunity to reach the right customer at the right time with exactly what they need.
Retailers have no choice but to innovate ways for customers to have total choice over their shopping experience, enhanced with immediate and personalized incentives. Solutions like beacon technology, loyalty card check in, and Click & Collect achieve those goals because they give the customer every reason to remain loyal to and engaged with the retail brand.
Today’s retail environment is still changing. Customers want the best of every channel, and encouraging their loyalty is crucial to the retailer’s profitability. Qmatic can help you understand what resources can strengthen every touch point.
 How beacons – small, low cost gadgets – will influence billions in US retail sales; Business Insider, February 2015