Proximity Marketing With Beacons

The entire planet is going mobile, according to a report by eMarketer. There are now 4.5 billion mobile phones and 1.75 billion smart phones in use, resulting in a new generation of technology and apps that are changing how we spend our time, how we communicate with each other, and how we shop.

As smartphone usage increases every day, the field of proximity marketing is heating up, and one of the hottest trends of the moment is beacon technology. A beacon is a low-cost piece of hardware – small enough to attach to a wall – which uses a low-energy Bluetooth connection to pinpoint a visitor’s location on a shop floor. Tailored messages are then sent to that phone, promoting offers relevant to the products in the area the shopper is.

Marketers have a great opportunity to use this technology to engage with consumers on mobile devices, which they never leave home without. The technology is essentially invisible and can work without the consumer having to do anything – usually a major hurdle for any mobile shopping technology. The shopper only has to agree in advance to receive such messages as they shop.

Implementing beaconing is less about installing the actual beacons and much more about rethinking the overall shopping experience they can help shape. Here are some examples of how companies are using beacons to influence consumer behavior in-store and inform their buying decisions at the shelf-edge.

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC): Hudson’s Bay was the first major retailer to launch a North American beacon deployment, in its U.S. and Canadian stores. A shopper with the SnipSnap app on their iPhone could receive messages and offers from a number of in-store, beacon-triggered advertising campaigns. The beacon program runs on the advertising platform of Boston-based Swirl.

Universal Display: This global mannequin company based in London and New York is putting beacons inside mannequins in store windows. Why? To allow passers-by to instantly see the details of the outfit the mannequin is wearing and purchase any of its components from their phones. The beaconed-mannequins are only currently active in the UK, in the House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis, Bentalls, and Jaeger.

The possibilities for beacon technology are vast. It isn’t just a useful tool in terms of capitalizing on mobile commerce to increase consumer value. It can also be used to track shoppers’ journeys around the store, in order to gather important data on the in-store journey. By collating this data, retailers can examine where consumers go, how long they stay there and their route around the store, from which profit-making business decisions can be made.

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