Online retail­ers such as Ama­zon have made busi­ness more chal­leng­ing for many brick-and-mortar retail­ers. Many of these retail­ers, such as Best Buy and Tar­get, have found that they often serve as phys­i­cal show­rooms for con­sumers to eval­u­ate prod­ucts before pur­chas­ing them online.

In addi­tion to this chal­lenge, brick-and-mortar retail­ers pre­vi­ously did not have access to the same level of insight about their cus­tomers as their online com­peti­tors. Whereas online retail­ers have been able to mea­sure traf­fic and shop­ping pat­terns pre­cisely enough to rec­om­mend per­son­al­ized prod­ucts, phys­i­cal retail­ers have found it more dif­fi­cult to glean sim­i­lar data with­out the risk of being inva­sive. Before, many phys­i­cal retail­ers col­lected in-store data using secu­rity cam­eras to track cus­tomer move­ments and in-store equip­ment to detect and track cus­tomers’ media access con­trol (MAC) addresses. With iBea­con and other sen­sor tech­nol­ogy, mar­keters now have a more per­va­sive and inex­pen­sive way to mea­sure shop­ping behav­ior and fine-tune loca­tion data. They can also tai­lor the brows­ing expe­ri­ence and pro­vide per­son­al­ized offers, prices, and rewards to cus­tomers while they are shop­ping inside their stores.

But what can iBea­con tech­nol­ogy do for you as a cus­tomer? Imag­ine step­ping inside a store and, upon open­ing an app, you find a per­son­al­ized map on your smart­phone, show­ing you offers that are tai­lored to your needs and interests.

Your per­son­al­ized map guides you to the store sec­tions where you can find inter­est­ing prod­ucts and per­son­al­ized deals based on your past pur­chas­ing behav­iors and elec­tronic shop­ping list. You even­tu­ally try on dif­fer­ent out­fits and decide to buy one. As you walk away from the fit­ting room, your phone gives you per­son­al­ized deals on shoes that would match the out­fit you have in hand. After select­ing the right pair of shoes, you skip the line and pay for your items with a sin­gle tap on your phone—and you are imme­di­ately shown your loy­alty rewards and points for the pur­chase as well as an excit­ing incen­tive to share with your friends.

In real-time or after you’ve left, the retailer can see how long you’ve been in each part of the store, how long each prod­uct was in your hands, which offers were effec­tive, what you even­tu­ally bought, what you shared with your friends, and a lot of other inter­est­ing ana­lyt­ics data.

Although some com­pa­nies, such as Esti­mote, are build­ing light­weight, cheap, and stand­alone iBea­con devices for phys­i­cal stores, every device man­u­fac­tured since the iPhone 4s and iPad 3 gen­er­a­tion is equipped to being either an iBea­con trans­mit­ter or receiver that can lever­age apps such as Site­worx Concierge to power proximity-based pro­mo­tions and prod­uct info. Cou­pled with low-energy Blue­tooth con­nec­tions, mak­ing it easy for devices to talk to one another, the preva­lence and acces­si­bil­ity of iBea­con tech­nol­ogy make its appli­ca­tion a real­is­tic pos­si­bil­ity for both small and large retailers.

Many busi­nesses have already imple­mented these devices. With the iPad rapidly being adopted in the retail space, every com­pat­i­ble iPad already in use at a retail store is capa­ble of tak­ing advan­tage of iBea­con tech­nol­ogy. High-profile exam­ples include the instal­la­tion at Lebron James’ Unknwn, where every shoe has its own iPad dis­play. And last year, Kate Spade deployed nearly 50,000 tablet kiosks—con­sist­ing of sim­ple dig­i­tal displays—in hotels, restau­rants, retail, and other loca­tions. Using iBea­cons can make these sim­ple dis­plays even more pow­er­ful and use­ful to both the cus­tomer and retailer.

Macy’s was the first national retailer to imple­ment Apple’s new iBea­cons in part­ner­ship with retail app Shop­kick last Novem­ber. When cus­tomers walked into one of the two par­tic­i­pat­ing Macy’s loca­tions in New York City and San Fran­cisco, the store noti­fied them to down­load or use the Shop­kick app, which alerted them to deals, send­ing them on a scav­enger hunt for per­son­al­ized prod­ucts at that par­tic­u­lar store loca­tion.  Although the trial was lim­ited to a few loca­tions, when it is rolled out to more loca­tions, Macy’s might also per­son­al­ize mes­sages to shop­pers while they are in a spe­cific depart­ment, pos­si­bly rec­om­mend­ing nearby prod­ucts that are tai­lored to them.

As retail­ers find the best ways to use iBea­con and sen­sor tech­nol­ogy in their brick-and-mortar stores, dig­i­tal mar­keters will be able to mea­sure cus­tomer inter­ac­tions more pre­cisely across var­i­ous channels—watching prospects move from an online ad and an in-store sale noti­fi­ca­tion to a suc­cess­ful pur­chase at a retail location.

And finally, not only cus­tomers can ben­e­fit from a more fun, per­son­al­ized, and dynamic in-store expe­ri­ence; retail­ers can also ben­e­fit from the abil­ity to con­cretely assess whether or not their online efforts were effec­tive in offline sales, and inter­est­ingly, mea­sure the reverse.

2 comments
Jonathan McKeever
Jonathan McKeever

Great post and thanks for outlining some of the ways beacons can enable closer relationship between retailers and their guests.    I am an admitted people person and I am sure I am not alone when I say I'd rather relate with a person than with my phone, while shopping.  If I need to use my device, I want the experience to be fast, tailored and effective.   

 At Siteworx - thanks for the shout out in your post - we developed the Concierge app with this personal interaction in mind.   What makes us passionate about this emerging technology is the ability to connect brands with their guests, not just on their screens, but in person, face to face.  In the store.  

Siteworx is currently leveraging Adobe's Experience manager to power the backend for one of our in-store apps, and the platform has been a powerful enabler for us.   As things like dwell, fitting room visits and associate interactions replace “clicks” and “web views” as the chief metrics to track, I am curious what the next generation of Adobe Analytics will look like.