Why beacons’ bright light dimmed in 2015 – and what’s next
Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from Retail Dive, an e-newsletter and website providing a 60-second bird’s eye view of the latest retail news and trends.
The use of beacons was one of this year’s hot retail topics. But while some still say their ubiquity is just a matter of time, others believe their utility is more limited than initially thought.
"I think that what retailers are discovering is that beacons may not simply be yet another channel through which promotion and messaging get shoved down to shoppers," retail futurist Doug Stephens told Retail Dive. "I think we’re going to mature beyond that."
Simple tweaks seem to be in order, like making sure batteries are charged and antennas are properly oriented without interference. Sometimes, beacons will greet customers repeatedly if they happen to pass near the entrance. To communicate, a retailer’s app must be downloaded onto the shopper’s phone and their Bluetooth connectivity must be on.
Moreover, many customers find getting a coupon for an item they’re looking at can be creepy.
Yet, while beacons may be falling flat as a marketing tool, they could remain valuable to retailers as a source of data.
"Shoppers are looking for information about price, reviews, performance," Mr. Stephens said. "Retailers haven’t been good at consistent sales floor support, but beacons could be a great way of providing information, and of measuring which products they’re interested in."
A more refined approach may be underway at Target, which is working with Point Inside to map each of its stores.
Point Inside CEO Josh Marti believes beacons can help a retailer reorder a customer’s shopping list, better understand how to dispatch associates in busy times, or help shoppers know if an item is in stock at a nearby store. Even better, physical retailers can take a page from Amazon and suggest other items that are also in-store using machine learning technology.
"You can actually use shoppers’ mobile searches and what’s on their list to project their location in the store. You don’t necessarily need beacons," he said.
Should retailers be thinking about using beacons as more of a shopper assistance tool rather than a promotional one? Are beacons already showing their limits as in-store marketing vehicles?