September 2017—

The Next BIG thing in Home Furnishings

Beacons have widely been hailed in the retail industry because they deliver quantitative, in-store intelligence. For example, a customer walks by a store that has a sale on designer shoes. The store has placed a beacon next to this section, which sends a location-aware, context–aware message or alert to the consumer’s smartphone, directly informing that customer about a sale or store/item promotion. In this way, the customer can engage with the store’s sale/promotion they may have otherwise simply walked by. One huge advantage beacons have over GPS is that they work at a narrowly specific micro range, as opposed to macro, which means companies can narrowly target customers even at the level of a specific aisle.

How do they do that?
Beacons are tiny low-cost wireless devices that continuously emit a radio signal. This signal is detected by smart devices (that have the right application installed, as well as the Bluetooth enabled) in the vicinity. The signal gives your beacon the ID number of these other smart devices. Your smart device then sends that ID number to a cloud server, which checks what action is ascribed to the number and then responds accordingly. This sounds complicated, but it’s really not.

Why do you need them?
The possibilities are endless for the home furnishing retail industry, just as they are for other retailers. Beacons allow stores to reach the right person at the right time with the right message, and with new and improved metrics to measure success. In addition to sending special offers and messages to customers, beacons can also be used to track foot traffic, as well as what consumers look at and buy, identifying “hot spots” whose intelligence can be used to vastly improve your floor’s merchandising. This technology also gives you quantitative customer insights—what colors, styles, skus are customers interested in? What style or color sofa is out of fashion? The answers to such questions become more nuanced with beacon technology. Beacons hold the power to completely revolutionize the customer shopping experience, and this is something the furniture industry needs to take notice and advantage of, especially because these types of intelligence sale and merchandising tools help you level the playing field with those larger competitors. The old adage knowledge is power is truly at work here.

Single profile
Using information garnered from beacons, a furniture store can build a single profile for every individual customer that comes in contact with it. The touch points with each customer can be recorded and analyzed, and the insights gleaned used to personalize marketing.

Let’s say a customer walked into a furniture store, and inspected a few lamps before making a purchase. With beacons, the store would accurately be able to tell what lamp the customer spent 20 seconds examining and which lamp got 5 minutes of time. The store could then build and maintain a profile of the customer that included their preferred attributes for a certain type of lamp. A profile like this could later be used to send targeted messages to customers, like tables, chairs and other accessories that would be similar or match these attributes.

Beacons can help gather a treasure trove of data about customer preferences. Loyalty metrics like visit frequency, repeat visitors, retention and cross-store visits can all be captured. This data gets very granular and specific, which further helps measure effectiveness of loyalty campaigns.

Rewarding loyalty
Similarly, beacons can help track loyal customers. Repeat customers who keep coming back to the store can be rewarded for their behavior through sales and discounts. By placing beacons at prime locations at the store, customers can be sent reward point reminders, or specific discounts that are more personalized because of the data that’s already been captured. It’s been proven that such reminders are appreciated by customers and boost engagement and store loyalty. Beacons can even be used to gamify a customer loyalty program. The furniture store can develop experiential loyalty programs and promotions to further engage customers. Plus, since the customer plays a more active role than in traditional loyalty programs, the use of beacons has been cited as having a higher success rate. Consumers want to be rewarded for loyalty. Think airline miles, hotel points and credit card rewards. Companies offer them because their customers subscribe to them simply because they work.

Stores can stop using the more cumbersome loyalty cards, stamps and coupons in favor of directly saving and updating loyalty-related points and information on the customer’s phone. Loyalty stamps can be automatically awarded to the smartphone when the customer is within reach of the beacon. Beacons can even help make customers more aware of such stamps.

Some popular beacon loyalty solutions include incentivizing purchases or visits to the store, providing discounts, and incentivizing contests and giveaways in-store.

Increased store visits
Beacons make for personalized and engaging loyalty programs, as we’ve seen. But not only can such programs engage customers already in-store, they can also lure online customers towards store visits to take advantage of the loyalty program rewards. Apart from online customers, potential customers in the vicinity can also be targeted with longer-range beacons. An in-store beacon in a shopping mall can send out a signal to a customer in the parking lot to let them know that there’s a 30 percent discount on bedding that day. Beacons can also be used to alert customers of micro-events like flash sales, trend or design seminars or customer-appreciation parties.

A more advanced use of the technology can be to allow customers to contact sales associates directly using the app by incorporating device-to-device Bluetooth low energy signal (this is different from regular Bluetooth tech because BLE transmits less data over shorter distances using much less power than Bluetooth). In this way, the store can quickly receive feedback to customers, instead of going through the manual hassle of sorting through feedback forms. It’s yet another form of automation that can be of immense help to furniture retailers.

Give customers more options
Say a certain style lamp is selling really well. A customer who wants to purchase the lamps before they run out might previously have had to rush to the store to get them quickly. With beacons, however, the customer shopping experience can be drastically improved here. The customer could reserve the item while online shopping and the app on their phone would make a note of that. Once they visit the store, they can then tap on that item and purchase it. Features such as this can do wonders for customer loyalty.

The beacons also drive traffic from online shopping into the brick-and-mortar stores. Additionally, they work in conjunction with the merchandise and inventory control apps on the same beacon app that help send more notifications to customers.

Large retailers across a variety of industries are investing in beacons—Target, Macy’s, Urban Outfitters, Walmart, McDonald’s, Best Buy.

In this industry, IKEA developed a beacon platform to send messages to consumers when they were at specific locations. The retailer primarily used beacons to promote in-store campaigns. The in-store beacons would also welcome customers as they arrived and encourage them to enjoy a free coffee at the Food Market. Additionally, it would remind customers to use their rewards card when checking out. Thus, with beacons, the giant retailer is seeking to introduce a new kind of customer engagement that doesn’t depend on interactions with sales associates. AND, of course it drives store visits, which we all covet.

This technology will see a change in adoption given that more and more shoppers want to come into the stores and then get to what they need to see very quickly with or without a sales rep guiding them across the floor area.

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

Amitesh Sinha
Amitesh Sinha has gained a reputation for inventory software solutions. He can be reached at