iBeacon technology has been heralded by some commentators to be the saviour of brick-and-mortar stores. The ability to track and integrate retail shopping experiences is certainly an attractive concept for marketers, but will it improve consumer shopping experiences?
Alongside the much-hyped product launches announced at the annual Apple conferences in recent years was the quiet rollout of iBeacon technology. Despite its much less heralded status in comparison to other features of Apple’s leading products, the technology has been hailed by some as the savior for traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
What Is iBeacon Technology?
Apple describes iBeacon as “a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence.”
One of its most exciting, and useful applications for marketers lies in its ability to precisely locate the smartphones of nearby users. In retail stores, this means users can receive phone notifications of what nearby items are on sale, or even enable completely contactless payments to streamline the user experience.
The technology falls under a growing number of digital initiatives designed to integrate in-store shopping with digital marketing, updating high street shopping experiences to keep pace with the tremendous change that digital has brought to consumer buying cycles.
Uptake And Momentum
Already, a large number of high profile retailers have launched the technology in their stores. Macy’s recently rolled out iBeacon in 4,000 U.S. stores, the largest implementation of the technology yet.
In a press release outlining the department store’s current developments, the brand spoke of their partnership with shopkick, a mobile app that gives shoppers exclusive offers and rewards for simply walking into partner stores:
“After a test run last year during the holiday season at Macy’s flagships in New York and San Francisco, Macy’s and shopkick, one of the most widely used real-world shopping apps, will expand the use of shopkick’s shopBeacon technology to all Macy’s stores nationwide… Users of the shopkick app [will be able to] get more personalized department-level deals, discounts, recommendations and rewards… This enhancement in Macy’s mobile technology arsenal will allow for increased consumer engagement and promotional and marketing relevancy that will benefit customers nationwide.”
Earlier this week, UK-based health foods store Holland and Barrett revealed it was putting together a brief for a new concept “store of the future,” which will implement iBeacon technology. In an interview with The Drum, CMO Lysa Hardy spoke of how the brand hoped to “eventually be able to target customers individually based on a profile they have set for themselves.”
They join a large number of high profile brands who are also investing in iBeacon technology. Prominent UK department store, John Lewis, awarded mobile technology start-up Localz £100,000 in September, to bring iBeacon technology to their stores nationwide.
In the U.S., Simon Malls, JCPenney, American Eagle, Target, Best Buy, and Old Navy are some of the brands that join Macy’s in their rollout of the technology.Let’s look at five ways iBeacon technology will revolutionize in-store shopping experiences.
1. Integration Of Online And Offline Shopping Data
One of the biggest challenges for retail stores today is bridging the disconnect between online and offline consumer shopping experiences. These days, CRM and attribution models mean that marketers are able to tie together consumers online search profiles, whether they’re browsing the website, or responding to email marketing. When the same user walks into a store, however, they’re a complete stranger – they might have been massively engaged with the brand online, or just a few moments and interactions away from a purchase, but their in-store experience will still be the same as for any other consumer.
IBeacon technology changes that. It allows retailers to identify users as they walk into a store, tying up online profiles to individual shoppers.
Perhaps a customer’s recent online activity indicates he or she is in a store looking exclusively at overcoats, or perhaps to pick up a regular groceries order but could be tempted by special offers. IBeacon integrates digital with in-store retail, bridging that division between online and offline, and the technology is beginning to gain the kind of popularity that could see the technology take off.
2. Capture Data From Physical Interactions
It isn’t just data gathered from digital sources that can make up a consumers shopping profile. IBeacon technology can be used to gather user information in-store.
A typical example might be a user who, having researched a purchase for a new set of headphones online, then goes in-store to sample the audio quality to see if his or her expectations matches online reviews. IBeacon reveals that they spent a fair amount of time looking at headphones in-store, and even if they don’t transact at that point, with this knowledge marketers can safely assume that followup marketing messages with headphone product offers and information will be well received and appreciated.
3. Integration With Email Marketing
Email marketing is a valuable channel for consumer-facing brands, especially for conversion transactions. It’s strength is in the level of personalization that email marketing provide. For example, with clever use of data and CRM, marketers can make an accurate estimate of exactly when a user needs to make a monthly pet food order; a promotional email at the right moment with a discount on Felix’s favorite kibble is likely to see good conversion rates.
Now imagine if marketers had the same level of confidence in a particular consumers favored toiletries. A consumer, let’s call her Jessica, might pick up her shampoos and conditioners regularly, but not like clockwork, in the third week of every month, and from a variety of drug stores that she visits in and around her most frequented routes around town. She isn’t loyal to a particular brand, but she does have a loyalty card on which she collects points whenever she uses that particular store. And of course, Jessica doesn’t know it yet because she doesn’t receive any, but she would love to hear about discounts and promotions on her favorite products via email.
This kind of information is gold for any marketer, but until now has been beyond their reach. This is no longer the case with iBeacon.
4. Link Social Media Data And Responses To In-Store Experiences
Social media is great for two things:
- Creating awareness about brands and the products consumers might be interested in.
- Fostering a dialogue between brands and consumers in real-time, providing brands with qualitative feedback.
Linking this to iBeacon technology means having the ability to respond to consumers in-store experiences. Perhaps consumers have been sending annoyed tweets about products they are interested in going out of stock in a number of your stores. Having your social media manager send an apologetic message is one thing, but imagine being able to respond in real-time to supply issues based on data linking social media feedback and iBeacon technology.
5. Completing The Customer Experiences With Cross-Channel Insights
When you consider merit of various digital channels, there isn’t necessarily one that can be said to be most influential for all customers. Instead, it’s the integration of organic search, email, social media, and paid advertising that, in the end, puts forth a powerful and convincing message to consumers.
iBeacon technology essentially allows marketers to collect data, and ultimately consider in-store shopping experiences as another digital channel. In-store retail data will allow greater personalization of marketing messages, and provide marketers with the information they need to build more complete profiles of their customers.
Increasingly, digital marketing is complex in that consumers today are behaving, and interacting with brands in ways that are also increasing complex. The key is to manage that complexity, and for marketers, this means having data, tools, and expertise necessary to build accurate profiles of consumer behavior and responding accordingly. Fulfilling consumer needs across a range of touchpoints, with personalized offers and messaging that enhances their experiences with a brand is one of the fundamental principles of momentology.
iBeacon technology progresses that concept. It provides innumerable possibilities for marketers to streamline and improve physical experiences, and link them up to digital channels and campaigns.
Has you brand invested in iBeacon technology yet? If not, do you plan to? Share your thoughts in the comments.