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.