Beacons burst into the news a few years ago, and there they have stayed. But despite a wealth of articles, beacons remain a hyped-up and confusing topic for most. With RetailNext’s recent announcement of yet another use case for this darling of retail technology, I thought I would take an opportunity to shed a little more light onto the subject.
Here’s a three-step path to better understanding how to get the most out of beacons in your retail stores.
- Proximity-based marketing and engagement with a mobile app
This is usually what retailers and solution providers mean when they say “beacons.” Retailers place low-cost, battery-powered beacons throughout their stores to do one and only one thing: broadcast a unique identifier that a smartphone app uses to trigger an action.
The crucial thing to understand about this use case is that beacons are used to determine a precise location so that a smartphone app can do something more interesting. The location could be relative (close to a specific product) or absolute (in the cosmetics department of store #1), but at the end of the day, it’s all about the app and the in-store shopping experience.
2. Shopping path analysis
In addition to shopper-visible uses, a retailer can also (with a shopper’s permission) use their knowledge of beacon placement in the store to measure a shopper’s path. This also requires the shopper to use your mobile app, and that app reports beacon sightings to a service that calculates the smartphone’s location.
Beacon-based path analysis is not as precise as video-based analysis, but with enough beacons it can be more precise and/or more cost-effective than other methods. Of course, it’s limited to measuring the path of shoppers who have 1) installed the app, 2) are using it in the store, and 3) have granted permission for location analytics.
3. Retail staff analytics
Recently, RetailNext announced the introduction of beacon-based staff analytics, empowering retailers to identify the movement of sales associates and separate them from shopper traffic counts and shopping paths.
This new beacon-based application allows retailers to not only accurately count, observe and measure the paths of shoppers and associates, but also determine when shopper-associate interactions occur, how often, in what duration, and ultimately how those interactions affect conversion and other key performance indicators.
While this application uses similar beacons to the ones a retailer would deploy in fixed locations for use with their smartphone apps, these beacons are mobile: staff members carry them. And instead of using a smartphone app to sense the beacons, RetailNext offers dedicated sensors deployed at entrances and key locations throughout the store to detect staff movement.