7 innovative ways retailers are using beacon technology

Beacon Technology-web

Imagine this – a customer walks in to your furniture store and peruses the motion sofas, and suddenly his phone pings. The same sofa he’s done his online homework about is now on sale – 15 percent off! – just for him.

None of this is as futuristic as it sounds. Beacon technology, first introduced by Apple five years ago, uses small Bluetooth devises that send alerts to smartphones based on location proximity. The one caveat – the store’s app must be open on a customer’s smartphone to receive the store’s beacon alerts. Beacon technology can be used to send discounts, promotions, upcoming events or other reminders to customers when they’re in your store.

Macy’s, Urban Outfitters, CVS, Lord & Taylor, Target, Timberland and many other major retailers already use beacon technology to take customers’ shopping experiences to the next level.

Pointing to costs, furniture retailers are slow to embrace the technology. Nebraska Furniture Market has used the technology for years, and Home Furnishings Association member City Furniture introduced beacons in its stores in 2017.

With the help of beacon technology, retailers are better able to meet customer needs and create a more cohesive online-to-in-store experience.

If you doubt beacon technology’s power, you shouldn’t – Swirl Networks Inc. found that more than 70 percent of shoppers say beacon-triggered content and offers increased their likelihood of purchasing in-store.

Here are seven innovative ways retailers are using beacon technology, so you can decide the best strategy for your brand:

Track customers in store

Beacon technology is an incredibly effective way to create a cohesive online and in-store experience. By tracking a customer’s in-store movement, you’re able to deliver targeted information and discounts depending on which products she’s perusing. This can lead to higher conversion rates. For instance, a customer is more likely to use a discount for sofas when she’s in that section of your store than when she’s checking out mattresses.

Macy’s has been using beacons for five years. When a customer opens the Macy’s app in-store, the app recognizes which area of the store the customer is in. If the customer is in the makeup area, the app will remind her of makeup brands she already liked online. This targeted information can help persuade the customer to make a purchase.

Navigate the store

Oftentimes, large department stores can be overwhelming. After a while of aimless searching, a customer might say, “I can’t find what I’m looking for. Forget it, let’s just leave.” Fortunately, beacon technology can help combat this problem by offering an indoor mapping experience that makes it easier for customers to find items on their shopping list.

Warren Buffett’s Nebraska Furniture Mart is an extreme example, with each store being over a million square feet of retail and warehouse space. The real challenge of this store is that the merchandise can move daily from one location to the next, making it nearly impossible to know where anything is day-to-day. In addition to location, product prices are managed by a complex system and need to be updated daily.

Enter beacon technology. Nebraska Furniture Mart installed electronic tags that communicate via two-way infrared transceivers in the store ceiling. This equipment not only downloads prices to the items’ digital tags but keeps track of the physical items as they move through the store. When this system is connected to their digital application, customers not only can find their location on a map but get turn-by-turn directions to the items they are interested in –­ even if they saw it yesterday and it moved today. In addition, they get the most updated pricing information.

Targeted discounts

Picture this: You’re sitting in your seat at a baseball game, and a hot dog vendor walks by. As he does, your phone pings and tells you hot dogs are 30 percent off. You’re so excited about the deal, you order one.

Later, your phone pings again to tell you the jerseys in the merchandise shop are half off. You weren’t planning on getting one, but 50 percent off is too good to pass up, so you run to the shop to grab one in your size.

Brick-and-mortar stores aren’t the only businesses that can benefit from beacon technology. Major League Baseball uses beacon at various stadiums to alert fans to discounts on stadium food and apparel, and even team information and video highlights. Ultimately, beacon technology is capable of incentivizing customers to make purchases or visit shops they otherwise would’ve passed by.

Brick-and-mortar stores aren’t the only businesses that can benefit from beacon technology. Major League Baseball uses beacon at various stadiums to alert fans to discounts on stadium food and apparel, and even team information and video highlights. Ultimately, beacon technology is capable of incentivizing customers to make purchases or visit shops they otherwise would’ve passed by.

Alerts for in-store customers

According to GeoMarketing, 61 percent of shoppers who have never tried in-store tracking say receiving discounts and coupons from a retailer would drive them to opt in – so if you want to implement beacon technology for the first time in your store, consider sending discounts and coupons to start.

Walgreens, for instance, sends mobile coupons and promotions at its Duane Reade locations in the New York City area. Additionally, it uses beacons to alert passersby of offers to draw people into their stores.

If you imagine beacon technology as the modern-day advertisement, it makes sense to enable your beacon technology to reach people outside your store rather than just in-store.

Attract customers to events

Independent furniture retailers need to work harder than ever to stand out from competitors. Typically, furniture retailers might plan in-store events like wine tastings or community events to help a cause. HFA member Bedrooms & More hosts classes every Thursday and Saturday on how to shop for a mattress.

Beacon technology can get the word out quickly to customers already in your store looking for a reason to return.

Neiman Marcus is one example of a retailer using beacon technology to alert shoppers to in-store events. Ginger Reeder, vice president of corporate communications at Neiman Marcus Group, said, “Rather than having to go to your home computer to see what events are happening in-store, this is a way to notify the customer of the event while they are shopping.”

Improve in-store conversions

Finnish chain K-supermarket installed beacons across 55 locations to allow shoppers to create digital shopping lists, view recipes and receive smart advertisements and promotions. K-supermarket found that 25 percent of shoppers who viewed a targeted message purchased the advertised product.

Sending smart advertisements to customers in-store is an innovative way to improve conversion rates. Plus, the data you can collect using beacon technology are invaluable when targeting your ads. For instance, perhaps your customer puts “cereal” on her digital shopping list. When she’s in the aisle, your app might ask her, “Do you also need milk?” This type of targeted messaging is helpful and will likely lead to higher conversion rates than typical in-store ads.

Use beacons for loyalty programs

A survey from Retail Dive found that roughly two-thirds of shoppers under age 35 research products on their smartphones while in a store. If your furniture store is trying to tap in to that younger demographic, you should consider implementing beacon technology.

Your beacon technology can do more than deliver promotions and discounts. Urban Outfitters, for instance, uses its technology to create a mobile-first loyalty program.

When shoppers enter an Urban Outfitters, they’re encouraged to unlock an offer by checking in on social media. In the dressing rooms, shoppers are shown user-generated content about products. Shoppers are also encouraged to take selfies with a #UOonYou hashtag, with the potential to be featured on Urban’s site.

By using beacon technology in combination with social media, Urban can engage with customers online, even when they’re in-store. Ultimately, this strategy enables Urban to use real customers as authentic brand ambassadors, while making a customer’s shopping experience a better one – a win-win.

RetailerNOW is changing.

Insights Magazine will be replacing RetailerNOW as the official publication of the Home Furnishings Association. With this change, you will be able to find the same great content on the HFA website. All current members/subscribers will automatically receive the new print editions. You can continue to view content on this website until January 2020.

About the Author

Caroline Forsey
Caroline Forsey is a staff writer for the Marketing Blog and is passionate about all things related to reading and writing. Check out her website, carolineforsey.com.