Why Retailers Should Leverage Beacon Technology for More Than Just Sales
Since the launch of Apple’s iBeacon protocol a few years ago, beacons and location-based technology have received a lot of attention and media coverage. The majority of this coverage has tended to focus on the technology’s application in the retail space. More specifically, a great deal of attention has been dedicated to marketing and advertising, and how beacons can be leveraged to notify consumers of nearby deals and offers, prompting users with in-store coupons or hyperlocal banner ads to drive sales.
Without question, beacons have presented marketers with a new channel to market products and deals to consumers. While there's no doubt great opportunity in this emerging channel, the view that a beacon content strategy should be "coupons first" is short sighted. Beacons present a unique opportunity to do so much more than just delivering advertising, and it's crucial that marketers view the channel for its larger potential. Beacons present retailers and brands with the opportunity to fundamentally change and influence the customer experience, and ultimately the way we shop.
In a world that's in constant fear of an encroaching e-commerce presence, we need to look at what exactly is driving massive growth in e-commerce sales. It’s not more advertising and marketing messages. The primary driver behind e-commerce uptake is the customer experience, utility and convenience of shopping online. In most cases, an Amazon.com experience is more informed, more content rich and free of many of the hassles from which traditional brick-and-mortar retail has often suffered.
With a few clicks, consumers can evaluate products instantly through customer reviews, videos and detailed information about their potential purchases. Stock availability is rarely an issue, personal preferences based on purchase history are considered, and navigation among "departments" is fast and intuitive.
While many retailers have tried to bring this type of experiential value in-store, these advantages have been relegated to the online world due to technological limitations. However, this is no longer the case. The application of user and customer experience learnings from e-commerce can now be applied to the physical world more easily than ever before. Beacons and other location technologies give retailers the power to understand a user's physical world context, presenting them with hyper-relevant information to inform their purchases as they navigate the physical world. Dwell times within stores can form the backbone of what clicks have done for our understanding of the e-commerce shopper, and the traditional barriers to delivering a faster, more informed shopping experience vanish.
While sales are without question the cornerstone of any retailer's success, thinking customer first about the shopping experience has tangible influence on average basket size and repeat visits. In our location-powered mobile world, brands need to apply this technology with a customer-first, UX lens to achieve real results.
Identifying and crafting this type of experience magic is the hard part; solving the experience challenge should be the focus. Get that right and delivering ads and coupons will come easily.
John Coombs is co-founder and CEO of Rover, a location-based mobile marketing platform that helps retailers and brands deliver smarter, location-powered mobile content that creates enriching customer experiences.
Related story: Should We Be Worried About Beacons Being Hacked?