Beacon technology is a low-cost, micro-location-based technology which uses Bluetooth Low Energy for communicating with beacon enabled devices. First introduced by Apple (no surprises there) in 2013 when they developed their iBeacon technology, it saw a slow uptake in usage initially, but now the technology appears to be coming into its own as retailers catch on and go head to head with their online retailer counterparts and competitors.

Business Insider UK reports that as beacon technology becomes more readily utilised, it will directly influence over $4 billion US retail sales, with an estimated tenfold increase in sales throughout 2016.

How does beacon technology work?

Smartphones and connected devices that have compatible apps listen for signals from beacons in the physical world and react accordingly, enabling these apps to understand their position on a micro-local scale and deliver hyper-contextual, highly-targeted and personalised content to users based on their location.The underlying technology that helps the beacons communicate is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a wireless network technology which can transmit data over short distances with low cost and low energy consumption.

The opportunity for retailers

Over half of beacon-triggered messages currently sent involve some form of coupon or discount, and loyalty programmes are set to become big business in the coming years. For retailers, this could provide the ability to reward customers for location-based actions. Think about it, if you walked past a store and your phone pinged with an offer code for that shop, would it make you more or less likely to go inside and have a browse? We’re guessing more. This is why it could be such a strong kickback against e-commerce stores, as the convenience of having an item that day and at a discounted price could spell a comeback for bricks-and-mortar shops.

Putting beacon technology to work

In France, supermarket giant Carrefour have found a novel usage for beacon technology. As we have mentioned, beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy to determine the distance of a shopper, transmitting promotional codes to their smartphone. Special offers and directions are then sent to them, allowing shoppers to benefit from exclusive promotions. Magic! Whilst UK retailers have yet to catch on to something like this, we predict it won’t be long until our phones are pinging with bargains and vouchers as we stroll down the high street.

How the big retailers use it

Elle’s advertisers wanted to encourage customers to their doors. Elle listened, trialled a few luxury shopping campaigns and discovered they were onto a winner using beacon technology. Within five weeks the push open rate was 15 times higher than the mobile advertising average of 0.8, while in-store visit rates were 100 times higher, according to Swirl and ShopAdvisor. By using their trustworthy reputation, Elle drove retail store visits up by 500,000 in just a few weeks!

What should retailers learn from this? Beacon technology can offer a seamless and curated user experience, making your customers feel unique and valued which translates into increased footfall and sales.

Be the first in the know!

It seems that luxury retail and fashion are leading the way in how we market our products and use new technologies. With a handful of high profile brands opting to test the boundaries, we don’t think it will be too long until other industries join the beacon revolution.

If you are struggling to pull customers into your store but you have a healthy footfall past it, we suggest looking into this simple, affordable technology. If you don’t have the footfall then consider having a pop up shop with a wireless option where there is footfall. Cafe? Notify shoppers you have seats, a new menu or free wifi! Travel agent? Tell shoppers about your latest offer with a cheeky ‘Monday morning blues? Book your next holiday today using your exclusive offer code’ message. If you’re a bank or financial service? Cause a stir and offer exclusive savings rates if they open an account that week!

As you can see, there are numerous possibilities for beacon technology, regardless of your industry. As beacon technology comes into its own this year and sees a real surge in applications and popularity, it’s time to get ready to make the most of it in your business.

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