Since Apple's announcement of its iBeacon technology back in 2013 and Google's release of Eddystone soon after, retailers have been exploring how location-based technology can speak to mobile devices in order to enhance the shopping experience. While there are a few business trialling this technology, it's still yet to be explored to its full potential, and with the recent success of augmented reality technologies and apps like Pokémon Go, it's clear consumers are more than ready to embrace highly interactive customer experiences driven by technology.
Beacons offer an opportunity to address consumers' heightening expectations for personalised, timely, and relevant content as and when they need it most. It's time for Australians to not only understand how beacons work and how they can be applied, but actually start embracing their capabilities and testing how they can improve customer engagement, brand loyalty, sales, and more.
What are beacons and how do they work?
Beacons are a type of 'nearables' - everyday objects that have smart features included, which are only enabled when a user is within close proximity. This could be in the form of walking past a store and receiving instant notification of a sale.
Nearables include near-field communication (NFC) technology currently used in tap-and-go payment systems, and match-box sized transmitters that can be used for anything from tracking lost items to automatically turning on lights or unlocking doors.The beacons themselves are almost maintenance free and usually use small, replaceable batteries that can last up to five years due to their low power requirements.
How could beacons impact customer experiences?
As customers demand increasingly tailored shopping experiences, beacons present significant opportunities to gain valuable insights and learnings about customer behaviour. A user with a Bluetooth-enabled device needs only to be in a location where a beacon is active, and a pre-programmed action could be automatically triggered, waking an app at the right moment and sending relevant content straight to their screen.
Beacons can help retailers understand how people shop in each category, find out whether the category is merchandised in an effective way, or if it is in the right spot within the store. Businesses can then use this data to find potential growth opportunities. As online shopping experiences improve and become more tailored to the customer, beacons can help brick-and-mortar stores stay relevant while digitally agile.
When used wisely, beacons can transform customers' engagement with your brand
Every business today needs a robust customer engagement plan. On the one hand, beacons provide businesses the ability to be extremely targeted with their advertising and communication. On the other, beacon technology can also reverse this customer engagement effect if used lazily to flood customers with generic advertisements - i.e. spam.
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