Last year, beacons were the new kid on the block. Marketers got excited about this new technology which would let them know exactly where customers were in the real world so they could communicate with them in real time. Beacons meant that knowing a customer’s location didn’t stop upon arrival at a retail store, but that it could also be pinpointed with much greater accuracy in proximity to a specific object, such as a product display. 

Unfortunately, many of the early pilots pushed general offers to customers, without putting those offers into any context. Customers quickly felt as if they were being spammed with irrelevant messages. Not only this, they were being spammed on their phones, in a way that felt intimate and intrusive. This made it all too easy for customers to delete the offending apps from their devices.

Past the Push

So what are savvy retailers doing with beacons?

These retail marketers are moving past the push offers — to offer real time personalization that's relevant for customer's needs at that place and time.

Beacons have become part of the technology landscape readily available to retailers. By using location data coupled with consumer interaction data, marketers are delivering a more engaging customer experience that truly provides value.

They do this by matching micro-location technology with real-time decisioning and historical data to create a truly individualized in-store experience for shoppers, rather than just sending random offers.

While many retailers still think in terms of “campaigns” and pushing information to consumers in a structured way, customers are telling us that they want to be communicated with in a conversation. This is only possible if retailers are responding to customers’ actions with relevant messages based on that information, rather than just guessing what they’re interested in.

Context and Relevance

Retailers can use beacons to connect with shoppers individually from the moment they arrive in store. Customers can be greeted with a personalized welcome message, such as push notice with their available loyalty points balance or a coupon for an item they recently viewed online. This delivers real value to customers by ensuring that they don’t feel like the retailer is pushing product at them — but instead that the retailer is striving to help the customer accomplish her goals.

Retailers can evaluate internal processes to identify opportunities for beacons to improve efficiency and deepen customer relationships. Take the welcoming push notice — what if the beacon instead notified staff of the customer’s pending arrival? This enables the retailer’s staff to greet each customer individually by name, and perhaps provide relevant shopping recommendations based on items recently browsed or purchased online.

Micro-location technology also enables retailers to connect customers’ real time, in-store location with existing data about their preferences and likely buying behavior. Using real time decision engines and push messaging, retailers can engage customers in an individualized conversation, on their phones, as they move about the store.

For example, retailers can create an “Endless Aisle” by using beacons at in-store displays to provide more information about features for specific products directly to shoppers on their smartphones. Customers can also access additional size, color or model options available online for immediate purchase via the phone app. Retailers can connect with customers in a highly relevant yet non-intrusive way, while still allowing them to shop the way that they want to shop.

Reducing Friction

Retailers should also consider how beacons can be used to save time and money for themselves and their customers. Look for ways to improve backend internal processes, remove friction and reduce the time needed to complete day-to-day tasks so that the customer has a seamless in-store experience. For example, staff can be notified when a customer arrives at the store to pick up an order so it can be prepared for collection, significantly reducing wait time for the customer. Not only does this give the customer a solid reason to use the retailer’s smartphone app, but receiving great service makes a shopper much more likely to be amenable to offers provided in context, such as a coupon for a product that is complimentary to the items being picked up.

By combining beacons with real time individualization and contextually relevant messaging, retailers can now have a true one-to-one engagement with each customer. Steps like these move beacons from shiny new toy status to an integral part of the digital marketer’s toolkit.

Title image by Anna Dziubinska