What can beacons, or iBeacons or BLE do for retail? Perhaps a better way to look at the question is: What can’t beacons do? With beacons providing an unprecedented level of context, the use cases are seemingly endless.
The two most frequently discussed retail use cases for the technology are pushing offers to consumers and store analytics. These use cases certainly have a lot of legs and are really only just starting to be implemented and explored by retailers, agencies and vendors.
However, the ability of the technology to bring personalization to digital engagement extends far beyond discounts. This belief motivated us to ask ourselves what are some of the less obvious applications of the technology:
Ratings & Reviews - are increasingly important to manufacturers and businesses, and the main barrier to consumers providing feedback is not doing the review immediately following their experience. With a beacon near the exit, businesses can tee up the request to rate or review their experience immediately upon exiting. They may even offer an incentive to complete the task. This is also a great mechanism to ask the customer to fill out a private survey about their experience while it’s fresh in their mind.
Line Abandonment – Is a major challenge within the QSR vertical or any business that has consumer rush hours. Retailers can utilize beacons in conjunction with remote ordering to deliver service without the line.
Personalized Service – Is something that all businesses aspire to but few are able to achieve. BLE beacon technology coupled with CRM data can arm customer-facing employees with insight into customer profiles allowing them to provide a more personalized experience. For example, auto dealerships could embed their vehicles with beacons so that service managers could have the customer’s service history as cars are pulling into the service center. Retailers could serve up personalized versions of their weekly flyer or coupons as consumers enter the store. Think: virtual and personalized version of the old circular stand, with nothing to recycle at the end of the journey.
Consumer Experience – Deploying beacons throughout a store can allow retailers to gain valuable consumer behavior data so that they can optimize merchandise layouts and floor plans. Beacons can listen quietly in the background to determine someone’s journey through a venue, where they go and for how long (dwell time), which sections they skip, how long their visit lasts, and how frequently they visit. Just knowing someone has ‘arrived’ as they enter the beacon field creates various opportunities to provide meaningful information.
Take-a-Number Systems – Shoppers don’t have to force their way through a crowd to grab a number at the deli, they can be offered a number just by entering the proximity field. Or how about eliminating those long lines to get a lottery wristband for highly sought-after tickets… beacons could enable a virtual wristband delivery.
Lifestyle Applications - Gyms could incorporate a beacon deployment in order to help members track their activity and plan future visits. Knowing that a member focused on leg equipment one day could enable them to praise that workout style or length, then tee up encouragement to visit later that week to complete their upper body workout. If members are flooding the spin studio suddenly, the gym could allocate additional instructors.
Kiosk Personalization – Kiosks such as ATM Machines could welcome members by name and automate a personalized experience.
Customer Help - Beacons can also provide intelligence to the store staff in real-time to enable improved customer service. For example, if a customer is stuck in one place in the store for an extended period of time (e.g. in the paint aisle, where they may need help making a decision or purchase) an employee could head to the aisle to help them.
Workforce Management - With this same type of deployment, store management could monitor the whereabouts of the staff, through geofencing, including when they entered and existed the premises or how long they are lingering in the break room. Businesses could staff certain areas up or down according to rush periods or areas that require more hands-on sales staff.
Gamification – Drive engagement with your app with interactive games based on beacon placement. Reward customers for ‘finding’ things around the store in a virtual treasure hunt game of “hot or cold,” which could effectively guide them in real time along the shopping journey. Using this game-type approach, retailers can direct shoppers to areas of the store THEY want them to visit, which they might otherwise skip.
These beacon use cases are just the tip of the iceberg, and the innovation around the technology is going to be something to watch. In addition to powering beacon-based offers and analytics today, we’re excited to be exploring some of these more unusual use cases and applications with our clients and partners. Deployment of beacon hardware is certainly the easy part; figuring out how to leverage the power of beacons to compliment your overall mobile loyalty strategy is the hard (and fun!) part.