There is no hotter topic in retail today than beacons. These small objects which transmit location information to smartphones based on Bluetooth Low Energy have transformed our retail imagination, conjuring up visions of continuous offers being showered onto customers as they walk the aisles of their favorite grocery store.  The reality is more subdued.  We are still very early in the development of location strategies that leverage beacons and the iBeacon protocol, and retailers need to solve for a variety of challenges such as customer privacy, beacon maintenance, connectivity, and campaign management.

In a recent report titled “The Emergence of Beacons In Retail”, my team digs into this emerging location technology and tackles important topics, including:

  • Beacons require the right combination of hardware and software.  BLE is required as beacons leverage the Bluetooth hardware found on most new smartphones. A mobile app is also required to interface with the beacons, transmitting the location information provided by the beacon to a server, and then receiving the appropriate content back from the server to display on the customer’s mobile device.
  • Beacons enable rich experiences beyond offers.  We all enjoy saving money, and pushing offers to us via beacons will be a popular use case. However it is possible to offer a deeper level of engagement. Based on location, retailers can allow the ability to unlock dressing rooms, authenticate a mobile payment, or provide enhanced service such as preparing your favorite latte as you enter your local coffee shop.
  • Beacons provide marketing attribution. Marketers have long struggled to provide accurate attribution models for their campaigns. With beacons, marketers can identify unique individuals who visit a store and therefore can determine with accuracy the effectiveness of their digital marketing campaigns.

There is still more work ahead of vendors and retailers in order to effectively execute meaningful beacon (including iBeacon) campaigns. One significant barrier is that retailers can only engage with a small set of their customers who have installed mobile applications that can “see” their beacons.  In addition, privacy concerns abound with customers fearful of providing their location information to retailers. Even with many barriers and challenges, location technology based on BLE and beacons is here to stay and will offer digital business leaders who solve these challenges the opportunity to transform the in-store experience. 

Now that I’ve given you beacon fever, please take a few minutes and read my latest report “The Emergence Of Beacons In Retail”, then schedule some time for an inquiry with me to discuss the cure.  I look forward to hearing your feedback.