Beacons are physical landmarks that communicate with mobile devices. They can be extremely useful in determining the exact location of a phone user and can be used to alert phone users to a particular offer or action they might want to take – like downloading an app.
This new research from Google outlines just how fast beacons are changing the retail environment. Right now, Android phones alone are requesting over 40bn queries for beacon-related content every year and more than a million new beacons will be installed in American retail stores this year.
Proximity technologies, such as beacons, can have a profound effect on the way that retailers interact with their customers. In an ideal world, the customer might be using the retailer’s app in-store, but failing this a beacon can allow a push message to be sent to a phone that is close to a particular location.
This could be as simple as the customer’s phone asking if they want to visit a website for more information. The website would be related to the particular product the customer is close to at that moment.
Beacons have faced a mixed reception over the past couple of years as retailers have struggled to combine beacons with app downloads – they work best if an app associated with the retailer can locate the shopper – but given this data from Google, it certainly looks like they are making a resurgence. The big difference is that if beacons can now integrate into a wide variety of apps and all Google products, then it’s much easier for retailers to allow the beacons to reach out to shoppers.
Retailers today need to explore how to improve the in-store experience. Shoppers have become so used to the highly personalized environment online, where the store offers expert advice and offers based on knowledge of what the shopper likes – it has been hard to recreate this experience in-store. It’s likely that beacons can help to improve this by offering the retailer a detailed picture of where the shopper is located and what they are spending time over.
I think this more open approach to beacons is going to turn a technology that some had started to question into a major part of delivering an omni-channel experience for retailers. What do you think? Please leave a comment or get in touch on LinkedIn.