Will Beacons Beckon More Customers to Your Business?

Beacons, beacons, beacons. All I hear about are beacons. Being a featured speaker on the topic of marketing & promotions, I can’t seem to get away from them or the sales folks that want to me promote their products. They’re simply refusing to be ignored, so what are beacons?

The business problem

Beacons were invented to ensure modern, smartphone-toting humans who spend most of their time indoors would not have their service interrupted. Because buildings often block cell signals it can make it nearly impossible to locate devices via GPS. Beacons are a solution.

The technology solution

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Beacons are a low-cost piece of hardware — small enough to attach to a wall or countertop — that use battery-friendly, low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit messages or prompts directly to a smartphone or tablet. They are poised to transform how retailers, event organizers, transit systems, enterprises, and educational institutions communicate with people indoors.

MobileShopTalk reports, “The beacons are free and being sent to merchants by the Perka division of global payment processor First Data, which acquired loyalty app Perka a year ago and integrated it into the First Data systems. The beacons are being shipped to thousands of small businesses as an add-on to their customer loyalty programs. These beacons will be used to check in customers automatically when they enter a store and let the merchant greet the customer by name at checkout.” Chuck Martin explains the Perka app has been popular for a while, providing small businesses like coffee shops and pizza places a way to reward loyal customers. First Data isn’t the only  option out there for business owners to choose from … PayPal, Apple and many more are offering innovative ways for retail businesses to improve their store experiences.

With Perka, customers with the app on their phones can be identified when they walk in. The app does not even open, nor does it need to be running. As the article says, the beacons are initially being used to automate check-ins. HOWEVER, future potential uses could include marketing messages and special offers pushed to those who want them.

mobile instore shopping(click on image to enlarge graphic)

  •  In-store retail and offline payments are in the first wave of beacon applications. Retail outlets are adopting beacons to provide customers with product information, flash sales or deals, and to speed up the checkout process with a completely contactless payments system.
  • Consumers seem receptive to beacons as a way to enhance their in-store shopping experience. Half of American adults already utilize their mobile devices in stores.
    blog_ibeacon1
  •  But there’s a barrier to wide adoption of beacon technology: several layers of permissions. Customers have to turn on Bluetooth, accept location services on the relevant app and opt-in to receive in-store or indoor notifications.
  •  People are confused about Apple iBeacon because it has yet to take a true physical form. Apple hasn’t manufactured a physical beacon. Instead, Apple’s iBeacon is built into its devices and iOS7 mobile operating system. Already, 200 million iOS devices can already serve as transmitters and receivers. But third-party manufacturers have built beacons that can send iBeacon messages to Apple devices.
  •  The beacon sales wars are heating up. First Data, PayPal and Qualcomm are gearing up to challenge Apple with beacon hardware of their own. Smaller vendors like Estimote and GPShopper are entering the mix with beacon management and consulting on top of hardware or software platforms.

Mobile may already be delivering more customers than you realize

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Of total retailer website visits, smartphones accounted for more than a third (36%) and tablets for 15%. It’s easy to see the pattern of visits, with smartphones increasing 24% and non-mobile visits decreasing 15% since a year ago.

The index identifies retail trends across a sample of 26 major North American brands in industries including apparel, home goods and health and beauty.

Reaching a halfway point or passing that 50% mark is significant for commerce, since it implies a move to the masses, or at least a majority. And this is not the only indicator of the tipping point nature of mobile.

Here are just a few more 50%-and-over tidbits from recent months:

  • 50% of Walgreens shoppers using the app use it in while in the store (National Retail Federation)
  • 50% of Groupon transactions occur on a mobile device (Internet Retailer)
  • 50% of mobile shoppers would provide retailers personal information for a reward (PriceGrabber)
  • 56% of consumers expect more options for obtaining service and support by phone, online and at store locations via mobile devices (Accenture)
  • 53% of Walmart Thanksgiving Web traffic originated from mobile (Venture Beat)
  • 60% of Thanksgiving sales at RueLaLa came from mobile
  • 50% of shoppers check product reviews on their smartphones (IDC)
  • 50% of retailers say mobile represents the growth in their business and are investing accordingly (e-tailing group)
  • Another almost halfway stat from Gallup is that 49% of consumers have made a mobile purchase.

Mobile commerce is growing, one percentage point at a time and with the advent of integrated Beacons broadcasting sales, deals, discounts and product details, the trend toward mobile will certainly continue.

So in closing, if it isn’t already clear, this is your shot!  Get to them NOW while you have the edge!

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