The retail industry has endured a number of issues in the last few years; first the global recession hit, then increased online sales started to pull people away from the high street and in-store shopping, then came the phenomenon of showrooming.
But what the last few months have shown us is that the industry hasn’t given up and thrown in the towel. Instead the retail sector has innovated and found new ways to connect with a new type of shopper; the connected shopper, who uses their smartphone all day long. First came m-commerce, then retail apps, next up were app based loyalty programmes and then it really got interesting with the introduction of in-store beacons.
Beacons were unbelievably powerful, especially for retailers, because they allowed marketers to send highly relevant and targeted messages while they were walking around their stores. They also allowed marketers to track their customer’s movements and dwell times. They did this by using Bluetooth technology to send push notification messages to opted-in users who downloaded an app on their phones. But beacons are not without their issues. Battery life can be a problem in older models and changing their batteries can be difficult if a store has hundreds of beacons in place. Beacons can also be time consuming to install and they can be hacked if someone had the right technology or the inclination to do so.
Companies tried to counter these problems by launching smarter beacons. Beacons that connect to WiFi; mesh beacons that created a network of beacons that could speak to each other and connect to the Internet. Beacons with rechargeable batteries were also launched to combat the battery problem. But all of these solutions still relied on physical beacons to make the solutions work. Now the technology has been developed to do away with physical beacons completely and the world’s first virtual beacons are being deployed. This system does away with the physical hardware and replaces it with cutting edge indoor mapping technology that has the ability to send marketing messages to a user’s phone.
This unique and patented solution is set to change the entire beacon industry by making physical beacons redundant. Mobile marketing is going to be huge in 2015 and there really was no easy, seamless way to send messages to customers’ phones while they were browsing in-store. Now with a beacon solution that can be implemented without hardware, retailers can target one time customers or window shoppers and turn them into lifelong buyers.
The group of customers that businesses want to target most in the next few years are millennials and virtual beacons are going to play a big part in targeting and communicating with this very influential group of consumers. With 56% of millennials saying they would be happy to share their personal data in exchange for relevant coupons or promotional deals, companies need to be able to target these consumers using their preferred method of communication - their phones.
However for beacon technology to really grow it will have to be accepted and implemented by numerous different industries, not only the retail sector. This is difficult when beacons have issues and the hardware can get in the way of delivering a great experience for customers. With virtual beacons, a solution presents itself that can easily be setup without hardware, so soon we should see banks, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, events and many more industries all signing up to using the technology to better connect with a digitally savvy customer base.
SmartFocus is an innovator in messaging and communications, enabling the world’s largest brands – including Nestle, Mercedes and House of Fraser – to understand and connect more closely with today’s connected consumers; whether that be via web, mobile, email or social channels. Through The Message Cloud solution, SmartFocus genuinely listens to and learns from customers using patented algorithms and unique location-based marketing tools. Using The Message Cloud, SmartFocus customers have the rich data, intelligence and the tools for contextually unique engagements, through any digital channel. http://www.smartfocus.com/
About Sarah Taylor
Sarah Taylor - Chief Marketing Officer at SmartFocus.
Sarah has spent her entire career in service to retail and the consumer. Prior to joining SmartFocus, Sarah lead the marketing and communications strategy at Oracle Retail - Specialising in International markets.
Held leadership roles at Lawson Software, JDA and various trading roles at TK MAXX, BHS and Sainsbury’s.