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While Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology isn’t exactly new, when Apple introduced iBeacon as part of the iOS 7 update in September 2013, the move was viewed as a seal of approval. Marketers across industries noticed, and app developers scrambled to take advantage of the capabilities, according to a new eMarketer report, “How Beacons Are Changing Mobile Marketing: An Overview.”
There are a variety of factors accounting for the recent buzz surrounding beacons. One is the desire to improve the in-store shopping experience.
No one is seriously declaring the death of the retail store, but improving the in-store experience is top of mind for many—and mobile can be a catalyst. “Brick-and-mortar businesses need to come up with much more compelling reasons for consumers to get off the couch and actually show up to the store,” said Schuyler Brown, vice president of marketing at beacon provider Nomi. “And mobile apps powered by microlocation marketing, I think, is a key component to make that a compelling argument.”
Rachel Pasqua, senior partner and mobile practice lead at MEC Global, said clients are open to beacon’s capabilities: “I can’t think of a single client that isn’t very interested in the potential with beacons. ... Anything that will make shopping easier and more frictionless for people is going to win.”
There may be a lot of interest in beacons, but US retailers surveyed by the e-tailing group in Q1 2014 ranked iBeacons and BLE last among technologies they were employing this year to enhance the in-store experience. This is not completely surprising since tablets, inventory access and digital receipts are more proven tactics for omnichannel retailers.
Beacons also help retailers collect consumer data once consumers are in-store. Beacons can track shoppers and see how long they spend in certain departments, the paths they took and how offers affect their purchases—and also allow more in-store measurability. “The biggest opportunity is going to be when people can see the attribution of an in-store visit against all of their digital advertising,” said Scott Dunlap, head of product at Branding Brand, a mobile commerce vendor. “It’s going to put a lot of clarity on that and really help them get smart.”
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