Much unlike their online counterparts, the collection of data in brick and mortar stores is, for the most part, done manually, if at all. For instance, in even the most basic analytics suite of an ecommerce store, a manager can understand what kind of visitors are most likely to convert and what kind of products they like best. They can also understand what products have the lowest conversion rate. In another case, they can, for example, see that, while a product is generating a lot of interest or hits, it is not selling well. These are the kind of insights that can make or break new stores that are still trying to learn about their target market and the performance of new product lines.
However, with the introduction of smart devices into the retail space, stores are starting to bridge the gap between digital and analog data. One of these such devices is the in-store beacon. The retail beacon, among other things, aims to help store owners better understand the both the performance of their store as well as how their customer perceive it along the buying process.
What is a Retail Beacon?
A retail beacon is essentially a communications device. It is often a small, hardly noticeable device that sends out Bluetooth signal in an attempt to establish communications with a nearby smart device – typically that of a customer in your store. As such (and most often using Bluetooth), the goal of a beacon is to connect with nearby phones to either gather data or send the user promotional offers about the products a customer is viewing. It goes without saying, then, that beacons presuppose and depend on the fact that your customers are already bringing their smart phones into your store. Nevertheless, for most store owners, this will likely be the case.
It is also important to note that a common criticism of beacons is that they often require that the user has the app for your store installed for it to work meaningfully. Yet, there are some ways around this.
Most beacons do not offer much functionality out of the box. It is up to the store owner to create apps or use apps that will allow store visitors the ability to meaningfully interact with the device. The beacons simply supply the technological means to connect to the device of a visitor.
How to Use a Retail Beacon
Since retail beacons are often made to work with mobile apps, what you can with an in-store beacon is really up to the imagination. In any case, many of the use cases for retail beacons can split into two major categories: analytics and sales. If you are using beacons to better understand the performance of your store, you might consider adding beacons to specific racks and displays to measure they amount of foot traffic compared to the amount of sales generated. It should be mentioned, however, that this is a
On the other hand, you might use a beacon to alert customers on their phone when the item that they are standing in front of is on sale. Of course, this can be done your traditional poster telling the user how much a product is on sale. Yet, with a beacon, you might be able to easily prompt the user to share the item or sale on social media for an extra discount.
Interestingly, Facebook has their own beacon hardware that they’ve started even giving away for free to retailers to use in their stores. However, it is not only due to the fact that they are free that have made them a popular choice among those getting started with beacons. First, most users have Facebook already installed. Since beacons typically require that users have your app installed before being able to use it, Facebook offers a good means to get to connect to almost everyone coming into your store. Once connected, you can then use the Facebook beacon to promote your store page on their device. And, once they leave the store, there is the possibility of using retargeting campaigns to serve ads to customers that have just left your store. These sort of features promise to offer the high conversion rates associated with retargeting campaigns, traditionally associated with online stores, to offline stores.
Where to Buy an Online Beacon
Although the technology for beacons is still young, there are a few places to buy beacons among a variety of price ranges. First of all, you can find them via Facebook to get the their beacon platform, however, there are a few quality beacons that can be purchased on sites like Amazon. Below we’ve gone over some of the better ones that you might want to try out.
Social Retail is the maker of a line of retail beacons that are meant to work with their beacon technology platform. The iBeacon i4 offers a low profile and inexpensive beacon that should be suitable for most stores. Among other things it has a range of 328 feet and has a battery life of a year and a half. Furthermore it can be used outdoors as it is waterproof.
Measuring just over an inch, the Social Retail iBeacon i9 is a tiny and incredbily low-key device. It is compatible with most beacon platform technologies. However, due to the small size, the beacon has a range of around 90 feet and a low expected battery life of 7 weeks.
The Sanwo beacon is a good starter beacon for those who want a barebones, yet highly customizable beacon kit. While it isn’t as feature-filled as the iBeacon offering, this device is cheaper and offers a battery than can be replaced.
That all being said, there are some other manufacturers of beacons that offer a full-fledged experience for retailers. And given the fact that Facebook has joined in to create their own offering, most retailers should be able to find a beacon solution that will suit them best. All that being said, there is quite a lot more to talk about with regards to beacons, however, this article should provide you with the necessary information to start your search for beacon technology.
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