5 Ways iBeacon Technology Will Revolutionize In-Store Shopping Experiences

Are we look­ing at the future of shop­ping?

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 1 comment

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.

Innumerable Opportunities

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.

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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