In-store beacons

Everything you need to know about in-store beacons and how you can streamline your customer’s experiences.

In-store beacons have been around for a little while now and larger retailers such as Tesco and Waitrose have begun commercial trials. Whilst still in the early days of development, it is an important and exciting first step towards wider adoption of a technology, which could really enhance the shopping experience for customers and propel sales for retailers.

With the bigger retailers and companies beginning to dabble in the technology, it’s essential that smaller businesses realise the potential benefits and most importantly, don’t get left behind! Here’s everything you need to know about beacons and what they can do for your business.

What are in-store beacons?
Without getting into the technical details, beacons are small devices that use Bluetooth to send information to other Bluetooth enabled devices in the vicinity. They are typically used to send this information to smartphones, tablets and more recently, smart watches.

If a customer picks up a product that requires batteries for example, the beacon can automatically send a notification to their smartphone reminding them to buy some batteries. This not only increases the retailers’ complimentary goods sales, but also ensures that the customer is happy, having been reminded of an essential add on.

Of course, this is not the only scenario and the possibilities are in fact almost endless. They can also recognise particular devices based on their location and previous behaviour, so a beacon can differentiate between a new customer and a returning customer, in order to be able to send them personalised messages.

A streamlined experience for the customer
Let’s put it into context and go on an imaginary shopping trip three years from now in a time where beacons have been widely adopted. Food shopping can be the pain in the proverbial for many, but in the future, it might not be like that!

When you enter the supermarket, you are greeted with a personalised message that remembers who you are and your past purchases. The beacons will be smart enough to know that after you enter, you usually head to the fresh fruit and vegetables section. It notifies you that cherry tomatoes are on offer today and that since the strawberries you usually buy are not in season in the UK, the variety in-store today are from Spain.

It remembers that you then head to the meat section and lets you know of an interesting recipe that involves the chicken breasts you often buy. If you like the look of it, it can give you the in-store directions to the rest of the ingredients. As you make your way through the aisles, your shopping list app reminds you that your significant other added milk to the shopping list this morning – don’t forget to pick it up.

When you’re finished, there’s no more queuing, just pass through a special lane that registers your location and automatically charges your stored credit card for the items you have picked up.

As you can be seen, it is a streamlined experience for the customer but not only that, there are opportunities for retailers to increase sales via adverts and promotions that are targeted at an individual shopper. These are much more likely to be taken up than the email sent out two weeks prior that got caught up in a spam folder.

The benefits aren’t all based within the realm of marketing though, and beacons can have a positive effect on other aspects of your business and in-store experience too. As shown in the imaginary shopping trip, indoor navigation could become a reality as well as contactless payments and even automatic check-in to further promote your business to an even wider audience.

Are they worth it?
Data on the effectiveness of beacons is admittedly a little sparse, but what there is looks very promising. According to a study by inMarket, the use of beacons in retail stores caused a 19% increase in interactions with products the beacons advertised.

In addition to this, Macy’s, the North American department store, invested in a large number of beacons to deploy in its stores after initial tests. They kept quiet on the hard facts, but it’s quite clear that they must have gone well for them to have made such a substantial investment in the technology!

What is needed to install beacons?
For beacons to work effectively, the most important part of the chain is for the customer to have an app installed on their phone, tablet or smartwatch that can receive the signals sent out by a beacon.

If you’re a small business owner looking to take the dive, unless you’re also a mobile app developer on the side, having one developed can be a costly option. It’s also a little unrealistic to expect your customers to have an app solely to use in your small store.

Thankfully, there are apps already out there that can be taken advantage of, so you don’t need to create your own! There are many of these types of apps available, each with their own advantages and drawbacks, so do your research to find which will suit your needs best. For a list of ‘off the shelf apps’ or for a cost on a bespoke app please drop me a line at jim@darkestudio.com

How much do beacons cost?
The outlay will be depend completely on the environment that you are setting them up for. Each device costs from £100* upwards and we can provide a monthly plans ranging from free to £199** a month. How many beacons you will need depends on your store size, but on average one beacon is enough to cover 5,000 square feet.

Bottom line – should you invest?
Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong answer and it will depend on a myriad of different factors. Before making a decision either way, you need to establish your objectives and whether the technology would be beneficial to your customers.

It is likely that beacons will feature in the shopping experience today or tomorrow, so if you do decide they are right for your business, do your research beforehand. Also, ensure they are implemented and tested thoroughly before you launch the service to your customers – the last thing you want is a buggy launch that leaves your customers cold and ultimately leads to lost business.

Services we offer:
In-store beacon installation
In-store beacon testing
App design and development
Consumer activation and engagement campaigns for in-store beacons
Market research and analysis

* Dependent on the device

** Dependent on the features you require