In today’s retail landscape, if you’re still managing channels in silos, you’re at a serious disadvantage. Whether your customers are shopping on their smartphones, tablets, PCs, or in-store, the ability to transfer from one channel to another seamlessly is what separates successful brands from the rest of the pack.
While it may have started as a trend, omnichannel retail is becoming an industry standard. Don’t believe it? The numbers don’t lie: a recent study conducted by Forrester Research found that on average, 39% of consumers are unlikely to visit a retailer’s physical location if its online store doesn’t provide in-store inventory information.
So how can retailers capitalize on this golden opportunity to connect their digital presence to their brick-and-mortar locations? The growing prevalence of in-store technology is changing the game and revolutionizing customer communication, order fulfillment and beyond. One of the latest technologies to shake things up is beacons, a small device that enables retailers to easily and effectively target those “always connected” customers and ensure they’re getting the most out of their in-store experience.
Background on Beacons
While many of us have heard of beacons, few actually have a full understanding of what they are. Simply put, beacons are a type of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. These small, low-powered transmitters wirelessly communicate with mobile devices within a specific proximity. Beacons can be placed strategically throughout a store to help customize the shopping experience by using targeted push notifications sent to individual shoppers. A shopper with a beacon-enabled app on her mobile device, such as Passbook or Google Wallet for example, can receive coupons and special offers sent directly to her smartphone or tablet—if she chooses to opt in. So, as she walks around a retail store configured with beacons, different wallet content will appear on her screen depending on the department or aisle she is browsing.
For brick and mortar retailers looking to stay relevant in the digital retail landscape, the ability to tap into mobile devices is a valuable tool, especially in today’s always-connected world – a recent study found that millennials alone touch their smartphones at least 43 times a day, or roughly 300 times a week.
Retailers with developed online presences can benefit from in-store technology like this as well. While omnichannel as a phrase generally evokes images of smartphones, tablets and other electronic ways to buy, the brick-and-mortar store is still an incredibly valuable channel in today’s retail world and cannot be forgotten in the omnichannel approach. Technology like rich media and responsive design have done wonders to revolutionize and connect the online shopping experience across channels, but these solutions are not directly connected with the brick-and-mortar experience. In-store technology like beacons helps retailers bridge that final gap from online to store by unifying digital promotions, mobile devices, and physical stores, eliminating the hassle often associated with the path-to-purchase and providing consumer connections and personalization that wasn’t previously possible.
The Personal Touch
Popular chains such as Macy’s, Lord and Taylor and Walgreens have already equipped their stores with beacons, and adoption continues to grow. In-store retail technology is helping brick-and-mortars shake their “old-fashioned” image, and can be a key feature of an omnichannel strategy for several reasons. For retailers, the Holy Grail of customer engagement is personalization. Whether it’s coupons, loyalty rewards programs, contests or product descriptions, the ability to deliver a personalized experience for customers – making them feel like their preferences and needs are understood and accounted for – is invaluable and a highly sought after component of a complete omnichannel strategy. With geolocation abilities built in, beacons can help retailers track factors such as high traffic times and inventory levels to help them deliver the most positive, personal experience for customers in their stores.
With the rise of ecommerce, it’s no secret that brick-and-mortars are looking to update their image and stay relevant among their digital competitors. But the storefront is far from extinct. With advances in technology, big box chains and small businesses alike can enhance the in-store experience and remain competitive. We’re only in the beginning stages with in-store technology, and it will be exciting to see what untapped potential this area holds for retailers in today’s omnichannel landscape.
Rory Dennis is General Manager of Amplience North America.