SXSW: How can we reboot the beacon to serve, not assault?
SXSW kicked off last Friday with a bevy of retail experts sharing their points of view on retail’s current and present future. MediaPost hosted a notable "OMMA @ SXSW" event in which the topic "Beacons, M-Pay and The Great Shopper Reboot" was covered. I served as moderator/contributor with panelists Daniel Gutwein, director of retail analytics, Intel; Sean Bartlett, director of digital experience, product, & omni-channel integration, Lowe’s; and Ryan Bonifacino, SVP, digital, Alex and Ani.
A key theme to the panel was how technologies such as beacons have extraordinarily powerful potential for morphing the retail experience, but that the industry should not consider beacons as tools to "take back control" of the shopper experience. Rather, we should be thinking about how to make their experience better with them.
Lowe’s talked about how they use real-time inventory tracking and have developed an app so their staff can capture live conversations with consumers about projects, build a shopping list of what the consumer needs, and then track their purchase behavior. They are also hyper focused on "not making a customer start over" via technology.
Intel added on with the video of an iKeg that they helped create, which monitors tap and keg "velocity" and provides a wealth of real time data about what beer is being drunk, at what time, in what bar, at what speed, etc. This prevents out of stocks while ensuring a fresh draught, and provides a sneak peek into how IoT (Internet of Things) could better support retail.
Alex and Ani went on to share how they put a "P&L to digital" and how beacons are used to bridge retail and digital. A customer can see a product "in the wild" (i.e., in-store) and then view it with deeper product information on their device. The data behind the scenes is registered to the personal information and the loop is closed for the shopper to purchase now or at their leisure on their device.
But the dark side of beacons is the other range of applications, whereby people walking by stores or spots in the store are hit up with selling messages or shopper data is streamed without public notification or buy-in. Plenty of conversation centered around tracking elements of people’s bodies, not their personal ID, then creating value exchange for the shopper to opt in for more. An example would be linking SKUs to video content in-store so that someone could wave their phone over a beacon to see an instant feed of how that product is worn/accessorized or view shopper reviews on their phone.
- Beacons, M-Pay and The Great Shopper Reboot SXSW Session (streamed recording) – Ustream.tv
- Focus Groups Can’t Predict Success – MediaPost
- The Digital Frontier- Chasing the Shopper In the Wild at SXSW Interactive – AV Network
In what ways can retailers use beacons to serve shoppers rather than seize control of the experience? What other examples are out there of retailers doing this effectively, getting buy-in and, thus, great shopper data?