Are Beacons Going to Make the Holidays Brighter?

The holiday season isn’t here yet, here but holiday shopping is already being talked about – and one of the reasons for this early buzz is beacons. Could they be the Holy Grail of holiday shopping? Are they just the next shiny new commerce object to catch our eye? And should the use of beacons be a reason for concern?

For those of you who don’t know about beacons, they are low-powered transmitters that send signals to smartphones that enter their immediate proximity, via Bluetooth.

Beacons provide technology that has the potential to improve the shopping experience and create a more tailored one. Soon you will be able to walk into a shop and get suggestions on what to buy based on your profile and personal preferences, targeted couponing, and offers. Your phone can help you streamline your shopping experience and eventually become your own personal shopper. It can also help you get the best deal without having to order online or go somewhere else.

Now that we have that information under our belts, it is time to examine how beacons might impact the national pastime of shopping – in-store shopping, which, besides for the occasional showroomer, is one of the last frontiers in the mobile revolution. When we all get on board the mobile shopping train, whether we’re headed to the North Pole or not, there will be no going back. And, beacons may very well be the train ticket.

Brands and retailers are watching the trend with great interest and some, like American Apparel in cooperation with Shopkick, HBC, and Simon Malls, have already started implementing beacons at large scale. These companies recognize that beacon technology can help guide consumers down the purchase funnel – for example, driving more consumers to fitting rooms or allowing them to use mobile payments for easier transactions and purchasing. I’ve never met a retailer that didn’t want a shopper to take action in-store if possible. Beacons have the power to tip the odds in the brick-and-mortar store’s favor. Not only can beacons provide a customer’s exact location, but also the technology is both cheaper and more precise than geo-fencing, which tends to not really work very well well in-store, but rather just outside the retailer’s doors. Now, with beacons in place, commerce players are able to go well past their doors and direct consumers to specific locations and products within the shop.

But for retailers it is not just about the actual buy; it is also about finding ways to learn about the customer and get better sources of data on behavior and preferences. Similar to traditional CRM databases, digital marketing provides even richer up-to-the-minute data about your customer and their preferences. While having this information can be a marketing goldmine, with increased data comes increased responsibility. And a need to be mindful of not freaking one’s customer out.

It is important to be upfront with consumers if we want to maintain their trust in the digital arena. Marketers need to be clear about what information they are collecting and how they are using it. Always give the consumer the choice to opt out and he will ironically be more likely not to do so.

It is also important to make sure your data is secure. Lately there have been several data large and high-profile data breaches and this erodes consumers’ trust in the industry.

Let’s keep the mobile train safely on the rails and success will be the next station. And, beacons may be providing a shining guide – much like Rudolph’s glowing nose – toward a profitable holiday season for retailers this year, and in years to come.

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