A “beacon”of hope for offline retailers

Posted in Retail
By Laura Leslie on August 18, 2014

I sat down with Dan (our product guy) last week to talk about iBeacon and how it’s a game changer for offline retailers.iBeacon and similar emerging technologies have the potential to take offline retailers into the digital age.

iBeacon is Apple’s trademarked “indoor proximity system”. It uses Bluetooth Low-energy (BLE) technology to pull location-based information from smartphones. The beacons themselves are small, inexpensive transmitters located in-store and are notified when an app user is within the set proximity. So far, the same BLE technology can be used for Andriod 4.3+ as well.

Online retailers have always had easy access to customer data. It has allowed them to cater their marketing to specific customer profiles, determine intent, understand conversion rate and quality of visit. Offline retailers have relied heavily on customer loyalty cards and email marketing, but have never before had such an intuitive form of data collection.

“This is huge for offline retailers,” Dan explained. “It means much more than just targeted marketing. It will also be used to understand customer intent, foot traffic, and how best to merchandise.” There is also hope it will solve the problem retailers face when trying to build a full customer profile. With more comprehensive data collection in offline stores, retailers will be able to cohesively look at their customers across all channels.

This type of technical innovation is certainly worth some excitement, however Dan reminded me there are still some things to consider, “remember there is a considerable cost for retailers and there could be an adoption barrier for consumers”.iBeacon will only be as effective as the consumer allows. If they decide not to download the store’s specific application, they will transmit no information. There will be some physical barriers as well. Although the standard beacon’s range is approx. 70 meters, phone cases, bags, and other humans will get in the way of transmissions.

Apple has been testing iBeacon in selected U.S stores for less than a year now. In the meantime, interested retailers should be planning their incentive programs to encourage customers to download their store app. A healthy adoption rate could mean big revenue increases for brick and mortar stores.

To us, iBeacon is simply another rich data source to incorporate into our online and offline retail intelligence platform. We are already looking at working with early adopters of iBeacons so stay tuned for some results!