Using Beacons for a Better In-Store Customer Experience

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Posted May 12, 2017 6:10:00 AM by Greg Henry & filed under enterprise mobility solutions

When it comes to creating memorable omnichannel shopping experiences, nothing is more omnichannel than bridging the digital and real world divide. Installing beacon technology into brick and mortar retail stores is a critical piece that connects them. Although early adoption rates were slow, beacons are set to grow as the technology has improved where retailers don't need shoppers to have opt-in apps to benefit from it.

Indeed, ABI Research predicts that the number of shipments of Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) beacons will exceed 400 million by 2020. Early adopters can take a leadership position using beacon technology to deliver an exceptional in-store customer experience.

The classic expectation (can we call it "classic" yet?) for beacon technology is that it can push out hyper-personalized offers, discounts, and recommendations to shoppers. Using a combination of where the shopper is in the store, and what their past shopping and purchase history shows, activating a beacon sensor can send the right message at the right time. If a shopper's purchase history shows they regularly buy fresh salmon, beacons can trigger an alert when they near the fish counter that "Fresh Salmon is On Sale."

Personalized messages can be more than discount offers. Retailers can push out an image of evening shoes or purses (all in stock, of course) to a shopper spending time with the evening dresses. Or it can push out an educational video on how to use a type of product or a mini-buyer's guide discussing options and differences.

However, using beacons to provide hyper-personalized offers and service is just where the fun starts. Definitely use beacons to provide these customized experiences — you're missing out if you don't. But if that's the only way you use your beacons, you're still missing out.

Start the Experience Before Customers Get Inside

Click-and-collect service, where shoppers buy online and pick up instore, is one omnichannel experience shoppers have come to expect. Using beacon technology with geo-fencing, stores can know when a shopper is in proximity to the service desk. Now, instead of requiring the shopper to come inside and wait in line at that service desk, associates can prepare to meet the shopper. Retailers can push out a text message directing the shopper where to pull up for curbside delivery, or let them know where their purchase is waiting for them in-store.

How about mobile shoppers that have a full online cart, but haven't made the purchase? When this shopper comes in proximity to a storefront beacon, it can send an alert that items in their digital cart are available in the store.

On the other extreme is the shopper who hasn't yet bought anything and isn't even planning to stop in. That is, until they come in range of a storefront beacon. A storefront beacon can push out a notification or text message sharing an in-store only, flash sale, or special event happening in the store at that moment. If the passer-by is part of the retailer's loyalty program, the beacon can trigger a message letting them know how close they are to earning the next reward.

Flood the Zone

Sometimes, shoppers don't even notice they're receiving a great retail experience. Yet they'll know in an instant when they're not. That's OK, because beacons can help. What are key drivers of shoppers' frustrations shopping in-store? Long lines? Hard to find help when they need it? Out of stock products?  Beacon technology can help retailers resolve these customer service killers before they happen.

In-store beacons provide a real-time view of where shoppers are congregating in the shop. Managers can easily see when checkout lines get long and new registers need to open. They can see where there are too few associates in areas with a high number of shoppers and redeploy them. "Smart shelves" can transmit data when they get depleted and need to be restocked.

If someone is lingering in one spot for a long time, a help message can be pushed out asking if they want to speak with an associate. If the shopper does have the retailer app, it can provide in-store help access. By texting or messaging through the app, the associate can respond immediately that they're on their way. The associate sees where the shopper is in the store and can look at notes about their past shopping behavior before reaching the shopper.

More generally, using behavioral intel gathered by beacons can help retailers design more convenient layouts and effective merchandising displays to make it easy for shoppers to find popular items.

Using Mobile Technology to Keep People Happy In-Store

Consumers have made their mobile devices a regular part of their in-store shopping experience. Think about it, a consumer's smartphone rarely leaves their hands. Smart retailers will lean into these mobile/onsite habits to improve the customer experience and their bottom line. Incorporating beacon technology into your retail mobile strategy is just one more way of fusing a strong, high value relationship with your shoppers.

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