Beacons Bring the Online Experience to Offline Shopping
It's an inevitable truth that technology, especially mobile, has fundamentally transformed the retail shopping experience.
For the last several years, mobile has contributed to the continued decline of brick-and-mortar sales, while online shopping steadily ticks up. For example, during the 2013 holiday shopping season, U.S. retailers received only half the holiday foot traffic compared with just three years ago, according to ShopperTrak. But while we saw story after story after story eulogize the American shopping mall in 2014, a new, more uplifting trend is also emerging — one where online and offline shopping coexist rather than compete.
Technology, the traditional culprit behind the online vs. offline divide, is instead unifying the two factions for the benefit of retailers and consumers alike. Front-runners in this trend include Rebecca Minkoff's connected store, Nordstrom's smart mirrors and Simon's smart malls. We're at a very exciting time where retailers are beginning to explore how technology can be used to not only supplement the offline shopping experience but enhance it.
Forrester calls this trend a "mobile mind shift," a new consumer expectation that they can receive immediate, contextual information to help them make decisions right on their mobile device. In fact, Forrester found that "one in five consumers expects to be able to pick up their mobile phone and do anything from getting store hours to price comparisons to who has what in inventory."
In order to meet rising consumer expectations, we've seen one technology distinguish itself as an easy-to-implement and cost-effective way to transform an otherwise traditional physical shopping space into a connected store: beacons. If you're unfamiliar, beacons are small, waterproof, bluetooth modules that enable messages to be distributed to a mobile device. Messages can range from in-store coupons to Apple passes to information about products.
Marketing communication lives on a chain of technology services, audiences and social networks, and the creative experts that initiate the messages. For beacons to be successful, they must seamlessly integrate with a brand or retailer's existing marketing strategy. The availability of proximity devices shouldn't fundamentally reinvent campaign messaging. As the last link in the chain between brand and consumer, beacons should be flexible and adaptable to the strategy that the organization and its team have invested in. Tweets, posts and videos are all appropriate messages for proximity marketing. Anytime brands can use familiar communications platforms in proximity, the familiarity is comfortable for the consumer and shifts the focus from the device to the message.