Article

James Carter
James Carter 29 June 2015

Beacon Technology: Why The Slow Uptake?

Beacon technology could change the way people shop in stores and completely revolutionise how retailers collect consumer data and interact with shoppers.

Beacons have been around for a couple of years now and are a new approach to solving an old problem: One of knowing when someone or something is in a specific location, how long it has been there and when it leaves.

 

The potential is massive: Beacon technology could change the way people shop in stores and completely revolutionise how retailers collect consumer data and interact with shoppers. Retailers can use beacons to solve a plethora of use-cases including triggering location-based features on customers’ smartphone apps, targeted offers, in-store maps, and eventually hands-free payments.
 

So far, however, the uptake has been slower than originally predicted, but we are now seeing various deployments across the UK, including Regent Street and it is certainly front of mind for many brands that we speak with.
 

So why has beacon technology not seen the surge in popularity that it surely deserves? I can think of three stand-out reasons:


Lack of app penetration

One reason we’ve seen is that deploying Beacons in store is the easy part of a Beacon strategy. But Beacons alone are of no use without a device to ‘hear’ the beacons, and for this the brand needs an established App that their customers have downloaded and participate in. The nature of app engagement is slightly different from standard browsing and, particularly with mobile browsing and responsive design now commonplace, consumers now need a good reason to download a brand app in the first place. For brands that are not there yet, beacon deployment is a small task at the end of a big shift in brand and engagement strategy, and for this reason, it may not be viable.
 

One furniture retailer we spoke with recently had a great strategy for Beacon technology across their physical stores. Furniture showrooms are typically large scale with a few clearly defined areas, and the buying process usually involves some kind of in-store consultation or interaction. So the brand realised they could use iBeacons to track time in-store and time in department, to determine which store advisor or specialist should attend to them. Alternatively, for non-buyers, they could use the data later on to send personalised messages and offers based on the in-store behavioural data collected. Only one problem – no app!
 

Contrast that with a food magazine app that lets you browse and save recipes, browse offline, create cookbooks etc, etc. This is a great example of app engagement, but there’s no store in which to deploy the beacons!
 

Problems with device interaction

Another reason may be the way iOS and Android devices work differently with Apple’s leading iBeacons technology. Whereas iOS devices (post iOS 7) constantly scan for iBeacons and wake up the relevant app when they come into range of an iBeacon – even if the app is closed – Android devices do not have a beacon system at operating system level. This means that Android Apps must therefore scan for iBeacons on a regular interval, rather than being managed by the operating system. The inevitable detrimental impact on both battery life and user experience is likely to be a major factor in the uptake of iBeacons, certainly for now.

 

With all that said, it will be interesting to see how retailers who have deployed iBeacons and have sufficient app penetration actually use the technology to drive customer engagement – and ultimately, revenue.
 

Short-lived novelty factor

As a consumer myself, I have already experienced a couple of brands’ iBeacon strategies in the real world, and the novelty factor is certainly there. Receiving a push notification with an in-store offer, while I’m in store, is something new. But thinking back, this is the equivalent of receiving a generic popup on the home page of a website – because I’m on the website. I’m not sure if that strategy ever had a novelty factor – but it’s long worn off if it was ever there at all.
 

And once the novelty wears off, it’s almost too easy for consumers to “unsubscribe”. It is a 5-step process to disable location access for an App on iPhone, but it’s only two steps to remove the offending app from existence! Brands are likely to be treading carefully in their adoption of this revolutionary new channel. So how will they leverage beacon technology without very quickly suffering from Beacon Fatigue?

I’m looking forward to seeing brands using the location information from beacon technology in conjunction with everything else they know about me, to become more relevant. Not just with push notifications and in app messaging when I’m in store. For example, it may not be relevant to message me while in store, but becoming more relevant across all channels based on everything they know about me, including my in-store behaviour.
 

The smart marketers will be using beacon data in conjunction with information from across the enterprise to target me.

Find out more on the future of Technology at our DLUK - Trends Briefing on the 24th September 2015

Please login or register to add a comment.

Contribute Now!

Loving our articles? Do you have an insightful post that you want to shout about? Well, you've come to the right place! We are always looking for fresh Doughnuts to be a part of our community.

Popular Articles

See all
Digital Marketing Vs. Traditional Marketing: Which One Is Better?

Digital Marketing Vs. Traditional Marketing: Which One Is Better?

What's the difference between digital marketing and traditional marketing, and why does it matter? The answers may surprise you.

Julie Cave
Julie Cave 14 July 2016
Read more
Customer Journey Mapping: A Real-Life Approach to Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Customer Journey Mapping: A Real-Life Approach to Your Digital Marketing Strategy

As financial services and insurance (FSI) companies strive to deliver the seamless multi-channel customer experience, the traditional marketing model has been radically reimagined. Innovative institutions are showing how cross-functional teams focusing on the customer journey can work to develop a single view of the customer – an approach that can bring tangible rewards. Yet research shows that large institutions still have some way to go in maximising the return on their investment in this area.

Aoife McIlraith
Aoife McIlraith 18 September 2017
Read more
Infographic - The Best Times and Days to Post to Social Media

Infographic - The Best Times and Days to Post to Social Media

With the social media landscape changing literally every single day, it's become a full-time job for social media managers to merely stay up-to-date on emerging and shifting trends and best practices. It's tedious, time-consuming, detail-oriented, and, quite frankly, a bit of a headache. But thanks to this new infographic, some guessing can be taken out of social media management.

Will Price
Will Price 21 September 2017
Read more
4 Important Digital Marketing Channels You Should Know About

4 Important Digital Marketing Channels You Should Know About

It goes without saying that a company can't do without digital marketing in today's world.

Digital Doughnut Contributor
Digital Doughnut Contributor 5 November 2014
Read more
10 Marketing Lessons From Apple [Infographic]

10 Marketing Lessons From Apple [Infographic]

The 10-year-old kid, selling ice cold fresh lemonade on the street corner in your local neighbourhood had it right. He or she may not have realized it but the simple marketing strategy that they accidentally and innocently came up with works perfectly on the people strolling by on their daily walk.

Ellie Summers
Ellie Summers 19 September 2017
Read more