Beacons are inexpensive, often battery operated devices that can push content to a customer’s mobile phone using Bluetooth. Since cellular and GPS strength are often spotty in buildings, a beacon is an excellent way to provide locally relevant advertisements during a typical shopping experience.
Maximizing Per-Customer Revenue
eMarketer, an analytic company that tracks eCommerce sales, predicts that overall consumer spending will increase 5% over the holiday season, while online sales will grow nearly 17% year over year. Customers may still go to brick and motor stores hunting for seasonal specials, but they are increasingly using their phones to hunt for additional gifts to augment their large ticket purchases, often while waiting in line to buy those larger items.
Hoping to cash in on this mobile usage, traditional retailers are looking for ways to encourage shoppers to buy those additional items in stores using pushed advertisements from beacons. If a customer is near the TV displays, for example, the company could push a discount for a related film or television stand directly to a customer’s device. Ideally, this will encourage customers to pick up these additional items in stores instead of simply ordering them online.
Apple Pay Could Be A Dark Horse For Beacons
When Tim Cook Announced the new iPhone 6 and 6 plus, he demonstrated Apple Pay, a new payment option exclusive to these new devices. Utilizing a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip, customers can pay for their products securely by tapping their phone on a compatible credit machine. While the technology isn’t new, Apple’s popular mobile platform could finally push it into the mainstream.
A limitation of beacon technology is that, in order for a company to push content to a user’s phone, the customer must have that store’s branded application installed, and opt in to the beacon technology. When Apple announced support for beacons in iOS7, they also built it into Passbook, a “digital wallet” application that users could store various loyalty cards in.
Apple Pay uses Passbook to house the credit cards it uses, which increases the likelihood that customers will activate this application, drastically increasing the potential Beacon audience. The technology still requires that users opt into receiving pushed content, but it does not require that every company build and maintain their own application to take advantage of it. Instead, they can educate customers on how to activate the feature in an app that already comes pre-installed on millions of iPhones.
Companies that adapt evolving technology quickly are often the ones that thrive once it hits mainstream. In the retail landscape, traditional business are hoping to utilize mobile technology and local sales to combat the convenience that eCommerce increasingly offers. Apple’s Passbook could offer an inexpensive way for small businesses to adapt Beacon technology in time for the holiday sales rush.