Sessions at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago this week made it clear that retailers need to be more mobile friendly. From having an easy-to-use mobile app to using keywords for SEO so consumers can easily find what they're looking for, retailers need to be able to adapt to thrive in today's mobile-centric environment.
Beacons are one way how. Brands are using the mobile technology to engage shoppers in-store. Beacons communicate with mobile apps via a Bluetooth signal to give shoppers a personalized in-store experience. Adam Silverman, principal analyst at Forrester Research (and a speaker at IRCE), said that personalization is critical to retailers’ future success — 62 percent of consumers report they're more likely to buy from a brand if that brand provides a personalized experience.
NFM’s four brick-and-mortar locations — Kansas City, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; The Colony, Texas; and Des Moines, Iowa — are all massive. Jeffrey Douglas, general manager of e-commerce for NFM, says one store is more than five times the size of an average Ikea store. Because of the sheer size of its stores, beacons are extremely helpful for NFM's customers in navigating them and finding the products they're interested in.
Douglas said there are beacons located every 50 feet in NFM's stores. The beacons enable the following:
- Give shoppers turn-by-turn, in-store directions. There are over 12.5 miles of racking in NFM’s distribution center, so shoppers need to be able to know what products are placed where throughout the building.
- Show where products are located on shelves. Again, because of the size of the store, shoppers may need help locating items. It’s easy to get distracted or give up altogether in a store of that size if you can’t find what you're looking for.
For NFM, beacons allow shoppers to spend more time talking to sales reps about products rather than where to find them, and drive web browsers into its brick-and-mortar stores. Beacons also work with NFM's digital pricing display system and tablets used by its sales associates, Douglas said.
However, beacon technology can be useless if everything isn’t working the right way. Douglas offered the following tips:
- Beacons need a good signal to connect properly with the app.
- Website and services (e.g., turn-by-turn directions) need to be fast.
- All products need to be featured on the app. If any are missing, customers will take notice.
People need to download NFM's app for it's beacon strategy to be effective. Therefore, NFM promotes its mobile app via in-store fliers, website messaging, television commercials and emails.
Douglas suggests retailers’ e-commerce, marketing and IT teams work in collaboration to create an app that works well behind the scenes and is appealing to shoppers. Silverman’s added that retailers must “think service, not offer.” He reports statistics show that consumers believe services make a better in-store experience over offers or deals.