Retailers Could Deploy Beacons in New Ways in 2015

Beacon marketing is likely to take off in 2015, as marketers discover they can use the technology to do more than just deliver coupons and offers.

While a number of big brands started jumping on the beacon bandwagon at the end of last year, retailers were just “dipping their toes” in the water, according to Rebecca Schuette, director of marketing at Swirl Networks, which recently developed a beacon program for several Urban Outfitters locations.

Also in the first wave of beacon adopters was Macy’s, which last September announced an installation of more than 4,000 beacons in its stores nationwide, as well as Hudson’s Bay Company’s introduction of beacons at its Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay stores in July.

But in 2015, Schuette continues, “we will see a full rollout [of this technology] at the majority of retailers,” adding that brands are just scratching the surface of beacons’ capabilities.

Beacon marketing enables marketers to collect massive amounts of data, such as the number of beacon hits, as well as consumer dwell time at a particular location within a specific time range. Because of this, many brands started using the data provided to deliver coupons and offers that are relevant to consumers.

However, industry participants think retailers will be able to deploy beacon technology in a new way in the coming year.

“There are a lot of people focused on how beacons will enable in-store analytics and couponing. No doubt those will be valuable, but I think beacons have the potential to open up new dimensions in customer experience [and bridge the gap between in-store retail and digital],” says Andrew Sirotnik, chief experience officer at Fluid. Inc., an e-commerce consultancy and software solutions provider.

He adds that this year, retailers can leverage beacons to deliver exclusive digital offerings specific to a particular store to drive traffic. In addition, they can also be used to provide consumers with loyalty rewards and exclusive access, just as air travel and hospitality have been doing.

“Similar to elite frequent flier privileges, soon we will see exclusive digital experiences in-store for platinum-tier customers,” Sirotnik says. “That could take the form of notifying special sales associates once they enter the store for personal reception and treatment, exclusive product offerings, or personalized benefits, and for all consumers, a more gamified experience around being a brand loyalist.”

Tony Bailey, senior vice president and technology lead at DigitasLBi, agrees that beacon technology should not be limited to offers and coupons.

“If retailers merely view beacons as a direct marketing channel, they are missing a big opportunity of using the data in a way that can add value to the overall omni-channel experience,” he notes.

But Bailey says that when retailers leverage the rich data provided by beacons, they should make consumers aware of what they are doing and what they are detecting, in order to avoid privacy concerns. Meanwhile, brands need to give consumers the flexibility to choose how they are marketed to and what they are going to see.

“Essentially, beacons are a small data set of a broader omni-channel retail experience,” Bailey adds.

Image via Shutterstock. 

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