Leveraging Beacons to Create Great In-Store Experiences – 10 Tips

What do CVS, Macy’s, Alex & Ani, and Lord & Taylor have in common? They are all embracing the Internet of Things and are using beacons to revolutionize the customer experiences in their respective physical locations. Research shows in-store app usage is 16.5 times greater for users who receive a message. Additionally, users who receive a beacon notification are 6.4 times more likely to keep an app on their phone. But as beacons hit main street, what can marketers do to help assure success and create differentiated experiences for their visitors?

Here are my top tips:

1. Set the Beacon Strategy

Create specific goals, objectives, and key performance indicators (KPIs). Sell the strategy up to management/board and across to departments/functional leaders to secure buy-in. Make it part of the larger strategy, i.e. the company’s overall strategy, or an omni-channel digital marketing strategy.

2. Create an Innovation Squad

Build a cross-functional innovation squad and get them involved and engaged early in the process and during the formulation of your strategy. Build and assign tasks and set aside a dedicated budget to test and implement approved strategies as well as new and emerging platforms or products to support the implementation and execution of hyper-relevant in-store messaging.

3. Create an App That Offers Real Value

Let’s face it — the App Store is littered with millions of apps, most of which are ineffective. Think long and hard about your apps value proposition and utility. Is there a consistent reason for the user to have it on his or her phone? Is it aligned to customer needs/wants as well as your strategic objectives and the company’s goals overall. Don’t get hung up on frequency of use. Ultimately this is less about the frequency of use and more about the level of utility it offers the user.

4. Map Out the App/In-Store Experience/Contact Strategy Down to the Aisle and Make It Personal

When you roll out beacons, you need to consider the customer journey and engagement opportunities — from geofencing and messaging pre-visit, to the in-store experience, down to the aisle, and from aisle to aisle. Incorporate registration and social sign opportunities within the app in order to link app users to CRM data and create hyper-relevant messaging throughout that journey. Use machine learning to sense and respond to consumer needs and incorporate brand/messaging controls such messaging preferences, behaviors and frequency caps.

5. Think Holistically

Move beyond marketing to create great experiences, and remember it is about utility and the experience. Consider “service” or “operational” messages such as pinging shoppers to tell them the average wait time at registers. Use analytics and insights to identify hot zones and to deploy sales staff or personnel to address consumer needs. Remember you can impact the in-store experience directly or indirectly by deploying sales staff with specific hot zones armed with customer knowledge to support and guide the consumer. However, in doing so,avoid being creepy by using too many specifics – if you think you might be creepy you probably are.

6. Educate In-Store Personnel

Educate personnel at physical locations and communicate program efforts and objectives so front line employees can answer consumer questions and address concerns should they arise.

7. Implement the Right Technology

Explore technologies that support data collect/processing/segmentation, decisioning, deployment (push/inbox) and analytics. Platform capabilities should also provide flexible APIs to transfer/pass data to the database of record or third-party partners for orchestrating messaging. Creating links to POS systems or payment systems like Apple Pay is also critical for attribution and program measurement/ROI. Finally, look for platforms that support both marketing and in-store/operational needs allowing local management to identify hot zones, tracking consumer traffic patterns and flows and scheduling/deploying staffing for operational and sales efficiency.

8. Test and Measure

Create specific goal metrics to measure program results including trails, frequency, and loyalty metrics, clicks or messaging engagement, downloads, linger time, conversions, or social sharing to name a few.

9. Be Transparent and Respect the Consumer’s Privacy

Be transparent with consumers. Use signage within the physical location to explain the program/benefits, how the technology works. Encourage app downloads, opt-in, and participation by highlighting the value-added experience for consumers. Ultimately the consumer is in control – respect them, communicate, and be transparent.

10. Share Successes and Results

Communicate program success and share results across departments and functions to build moment and drive scale.

Approximately 60 percent of all shoppers who enter a store don’t want to talk to anyone, according to one major retailer I spoke to. Beacons offer retailers an opportunity to enhance a consumer’s shopping self-sufficiently. Done correctly with an app that offers real utility and hyper-relevant messaging, retailers have the opportunity to create great in-store experiences that sense and respond to customer needs in real-time. If you think about it, this may be retailers’ opportunity to mirror the Amazon-like experience in-store and after all isn’t that just about every retailer’s dream? Happy holidays.

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