Beacons: Hope or Hype?

I’ll put you out of your suspense right away – the answer is: hope. In my previous blog I stated that beacon technology in fact represents nothing less than the much-discussed ‘Holy Grail’ for Retail. But why? What is it about beacons that has got retailers so over-excited?

The personal imperative


Marketing today is all about context, and about personalisation. With this in mind, beacons fit the bill perfectly – a way to provide the information needed, when you need it. Our friends at Zebra Technologies have put it more elegantly and concisely than I could hope to, distilling beacon benefits to three main points.

  • Deeper connections

Shoppers can share preferences with retailers, giving retailers more actionable insights into customer behaviour than ever before.

  • Greater relevance

Stores can create distinct, detailed shopper profiles. Through a 360° shopper view they can segment customers to deliver personalised service and support.

  • Better business

As dialogues enhance experience, retailers gain meaningful views of customer traffic and flows, preferences and shopping histories, and build stronger loyalty.

As customers enter a store, the retailer can send them a personal greeting and special offers based on their profile and history. The retailer can provide directions to a specific product or area in the store and even trigger certain offers as the customer visits specific areas of the store. Retailers can allow customers to place and pay for orders via their mobile devices. After they have left the store, the retailer can send a personalised coupon for the next visit.



A study by inMarket found that the use of beacons in retail delivered:

  • 19x increase in interactions with advertised products
  • 16.5x increase in app usage in-store
  • 6.4x increase in app retention


The data differential


As well as deepening engagement with customers on an individual level and ensuring loyalty is rewarded, beacons represent a great way of collecting data to generate fresh insight. This can range from knowing exactly who is visiting stores at which times (and what they are buying) through to analysis around visitor flow, dwell time and store heatmaps. This can suggest a range of retailer actions, including such real-time in-store innovations as adapting digital signage to better engage who’s actually in store at a given moment.



An unmapped retail future


The part beacons can play in driving full, mature omnichannel for retailers shouldn’t be understated. They are making the link between the digital and physical worlds in a way which shoppers respond to. They’re helping retailers keep track of loyal customers and reward or inspire them accordingly.

Ultimately, the point about beacons is that they are drivers and catalysts for innovation: they can be used to make personalised offers, speed up checkout processes and drive personalised engagement with instore staff, but also for anything else the retailer can imagine.

Our friends at HPE see in-store beacons as one of the sharpest examples of the trend towards ‘mass personalisation’ and give a clear example of how they may impact on retail in future.

“‘Contextual Shopping’ takes the example of mobile couponing success triggered by beacons and builds on it to create real engagement. A combination of mobile and beacon technology will offer information about customer location and activity in store. Associates will be instantly informed about customer product browsing and be able to make timely interjections, supported by one-person promotions sent to the customer’s smartphone. Cognitive computing will see the role of instore IT shift from automation to advice, whose accuracy will be continually enhanced through cognitive computing.”


What do you think? Are beacons more hype than hope? Or are they in fact ‘Retail’s Holy Grail’?