5 Ways your Business has to Change to Integrate Beacons

May 14, 2014 7:16 AM  By

Beacon technology is at the top of the list of next “big ideas” for merchants.  American Eagle Outfitters, Macy’s and Nordstrom have all rolled out beacon-based positioning to their stores and a number of national retailers are rushing to join them.

Brands looking to integrate micro-location, however, need to understand that beacons are only as effective as the people and marketing platforms backing them up.  Digital assets, CRM, product inventory and analytics datamarts are some of the critical pieces needed to power a strong beacon rollout.  Moreover, integrating these systems is not enough. To make the most of location-specific campaigns and analytics, retailers have to change the way they think about customer engagement.

Here’s how.

1.  Empower store managers to create campaigns
Centralized ecommerce and marketing teams traditionally own a retailer’s digital marketing platform. But a top-down approach to beacon-enabled commerce risks alienating the customer:  rote messaging and generic privacy handling are key patterns to avoid.  Omnichannel retailers of the future will need to rely more heavily on in-store personnel and merchandizing tacticians to create targeted campaigns and promotions that are relevant to specific customers in specific stores.

This will require additional training, and a well-considered access control plan, but the potential upside for customer acquisition and retention more than justifies the additional investment.

2.  Surface Analytics to Store Managers
Unlike the online commerce team, which will track customer experiences through conversions, clicks, and web traffic flows, the empowered store manager will use metrics like dwell times, changing room visits, and associate interactions to drive decisions.  These metrics will inform display locations, product placement and associate positioning, among other tactics.   This new paradigm will require a new way of governing the analytics datamart.

To use real-time analytics, store managers will need more access to concise, curated data reports than ever before.  If a retailer thinks a standard weekly analytics digest for store managers is enough, they’ve got to think again.  Using A/B testing, store managers can make real-time changes to display patterns, promotions and messaging that can drive conversions and purchase amounts and help strengthen customer relationships.   Waiting for corporate marketing to crunch the numbers will slow down folks on the ground who are best able to leverage these new capabilities.

3.  Re-think Your In-Store Objectives
Beacon enablements need more planning than traditional digital campaign platform rollouts.  At the heart of the opportunity is the ability to point enterprise marketing platforms at the in-store experience.  This helps leverage significant investments and uses more mature digital marketing tools to their best effect.

At the same time, the in-store team’s KPIs are fundamentally different from the digital marketing team’s.  Brand loyalty, associate interaction and product education are big goals for in-store teams.  Retailers seeking to roll out beacon platforms will need to identify new in-store objectives:  inventory-based promotions, picture uploads, physical purchase paths and overall foot traffic are now fodder for KPIs in-store, and the digital marketing platforms that support them. Upfront planning around in-store KPIs is increasingly essential as micro-location comes online.

4.  Bridge the Conversion Gap between Online and In-Store
How many of your in-store visits lead to online conversions? Which of your stores are doing the best job evangelizing the brand, educating customers on products, and cultivating lasting relationships?  Using beacon technology to connect in-store customer interactions with online purchases can give merchants a much better sense of what is or isn’t working for long-term customer engagement and cross-channel success.

This kind of attribution is also about incentives.  Associates who will benefit from having online sales attributed to their in-store efforts have an added incentive to share a multi-channel story with customers.  As chief educators for the brand, associates play a pivotal role in influencing customer conversions both online and in-store.

5.  Listen to your Associates
In-store associates are also the front line for customer feedback and critical for measuring the impact of a beacon rollout.  Mechanisms for escalating customer feedback should be built both into their tool set and into their governance, with questions that include:

  • Are customers empowered by the new features enabled by beacon technology?
  • Do customers feel that their privacy is being respected?
  • Do customers feel they have control over the aspects of their visits that you’re tracking?

These are questions in-store associates are best positioned to understand.   Empowering your store associates to make tactical choices to meet customers’ needs is a key fulcrum for cultivating the best possible customer relationship.

Beacon technology promises retailers new and improved ways of forming and keeping relationships, but also requires a significant shift in the ways that a marketing organization views its customers, its goals, its data and its feedback loops.  Understanding the ways your business will need to change is essential to making the best use of this promising new technology.

Jonathan McKeever is a Technical Director with Siteworx.

  • Alexander Tsyplikhin

    Nice article, thanks. I would say currently Beacons should be targeted towards improving customer experience first of all. For a shopper this can mean in-store personalization and guidance, enhanced interactions with store personnel. For a store the benefits are more sales, deeper customer understanding, and reduced operating cost.