The Great iBeacon Rollout: 100 Stores on One Street

Ever since Apple introduced iBeacons last year, the technology and what it might do for retail has been the talk of the town.

Some retailers have told me their early trials have hardly been a big success, since consumers must have a particular app loaded and have their smartphone’s Bluetooth turned on while they pass near a beacon.

Large, physical retailers already are challenged to get shoppers to download and regularly use their apps rather than their mobile website, which in many cases, seems a more natural transition for an online shopper.

Interestingly, we may soon see if a better model for beacons is for retailers to be aggregated by someone else and packaged as a whole for mobile shoppers.

That is precisely what’s happening on the mile-long Regent Street, the Fifth Avenue of London, where beacons are sending messages to shoppers as they walk by.

However, the messages are highly targeted and personalized, using a relatively new mobile-based technology called Autograph, which uses a flashcard-style interface that quickly captures consumer preferences.

After downloading the Regent Street app, which is being heavily promoted throughout the upscale shopping street as well as on buses and other signs, the consumer swipes up on brands they like and down on those whey want to ignore.

Ogilvy Labs earlier this year said it was using the Autograph technology essentially to improve the economics of mobile advertising by more precisely targeting those who opt in for certain types of messaging.

The beacons on Regent Street went active to the public last week and already have had had thousands of users, Henry Lawson, CEO of Autograph, told me from London yesterday.

The Seattle-based digital marketing agency installed the beacons and manages the back-end personalization engine.

Regent Street comprises 130 retail stores (Burberry, Hugo Boss, Godiva, etc.) with 180 entrances, and beacons are now operating in more than 100 of those stores with a beacon installed at each entrance.

“The beacon only activates the phone if the message is highly relevant to a person,” said Lawson, who is the former worldwide president of Donovan Data Systems, the agency data processor.

The commonly discussed risk with beacons is that there will be so many sending so many messages to so many passing consumers that people will turn off their Bluetooth to avoid the annoyance.

“If everyone does this, no one will pay attention,” said Lawson. “If the beacon is relevant, the app pings. And those pings are not necessarily coupons or deals, but can be announcements of a new product line.

“At the end of all this, you have to have a compelling consumer proposition.”

In the case of Regent Street, aggregating the retailers was relatively straightforward, since they all are in property owned by the Crown Estate and managed by The Crown Estate’s Regent Street Portfolio.

But the model for a shopping mall in the U.S. could be similar, with the mall owner or operator aggregating all the stores in the mall with a single app for utilizing all the beacons at each store in the mall.

It will be interesting to see how well-known retail brands will react to this if they want to try to persuade their own customers to use their dedicated app.

Half of the traffic on Regent Street is from outside the U.K. and 80% of those on the street carry iPhones, said Lawson.

No matter the source of the traffic, all eyes interested in beacons will be focused on Regent Street.

(Beacons will be one of the major topics discussed at the upcoming MediaPost OMMA mCommerce Conference in New York on Aug. 7. Hope you can join us.)

Recommend (6)
17 comments about "The Great iBeacon Rollout: 100 Stores on One Street".
  1. Matthew Davis from StepLeader , June 17, 2014 at 4:10 p.m.
    Completely agree with this statement: “At the end of all this, you have to have a compelling consumer proposition.” That compelling consumer proposition needs to solve a problem for the customer. Most beacon implementations still seem to be solution in search of a problem. This feels like that, but believe there's tons of value in testing this intelligently. I look forward to the follow-on summary and hope to learn more concrete examples of what consumers experienced and the results.
  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin , June 17, 2014 at 4:12 p.m.
    Thanks Matthew, this is definitely an implementation worth watching. Will also be interesting to see which demographic use, if that's the way it shakes out, or if something different.
  3. Drake LaDue from Brand X Mobile , June 17, 2014 at 4:16 p.m.
    Yes this is a great idea. But missing one key piece still. Consumer education. In this order or it will never fly: Why it's valuable Address Security Concerns ( we know there really isn't any yet until the bad guys get iinvolved) Managing notifications as you walk down the street. TOO many will make them just turn it off.
  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin , June 17, 2014 at 4:20 p.m.
    Agree, Drake, that is one of the very big pieces in teaching the consumers how to use the program. The app itself is quite simple and intuitive. The real-time notices, however, will be a new element for shoppers walking down the street. As you and I both pointed out, consumers being barraged with messages will quickly learn how to turn off Bluetooth. The Regent Street program is very well aware of this.
  5. Drake LaDue from Brand X Mobile , June 17, 2014 at 4:20 p.m.
    Oh one last thing, This is all Brilliant tech just implementing in a mall or down one street is probably the wrong environment. keep an eye on what we're rolling out by the end of August!
  6. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin , June 17, 2014 at 4:22 p.m.
    Yes, Drake, there are implementations coming in areas outside of retail, like travel, auto, etc. that we are aware of. We will be tracking anything mobile commerce related here.
  7. Drake LaDue from Brand X Mobile , June 17, 2014 at 4:31 p.m.
    Chuck; So if the Regent Street project is aware of a negative outcome at the beginning, a potentially project ending outcome, why not address it now. It's really simple and would require only a handful of beacons not 180 at each entrance. As usual another mobile campaign and tech leveraged in a linear fashion without considering the Gazillion ways to engage the entire audience. Take a look at our 7 goes into 28 13 times article at brandxmobilenews
  8. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin , June 17, 2014 at 4:38 p.m.
    To clarify, there is one beacon at each store entrance and the number of messages sent to a person are limited. They also have to match the personalization criteria by the Autograph system, so the messages are not really 'broadcast' messages.
  9. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , June 17, 2014 at 6:16 p.m.
    Creepy creepy creepy plus how many people find it incredibly annoying ? Still, creepy creepy creepy. Who wants anything following them like a "close talker" ?
  10. Drake LaDue from Brand X Mobile , June 17, 2014 at 7:33 p.m.
    In theory this is very cool and will get buy in from a % of the public, no different than men scan more QRs or more women use NFC for purchasing and are more likely to join a loyalty SMS club. But so far the consumer is all over the place and we continue to throw new tech at them hoping "This Will Be The One NEO!" that all (or majority) will gravitate to and use on a regular basis. I question how relevant the messaging will be when most small business owners have limited budgets and need to connect with large numbers of consumers to stay competitive and profitable. So step back look at yourself and analyze how you use the smart device. Some days it's to find a restaurant and other days it maybe to call a divorce lawyer. (I used two examples which were completely unrelated to each other to make a point). The end user's behavior is not predictable. Yes we see more opens on this day vs. this day. Or she likes fashion articles about shoes. But this is very far from being able to send a personal message that is relevant to the end user in that moment in time when they pass by the Starbucks. So we'll be back to the same old same old of mass messaging and the "BUY NOW DISCOUNT" , just in a different skin, in order to hit the desired outcome based on a statistical probability. In no time Just as an example of current mobile tech misuse, look at how the digital agency world has bastardized the QR code. They're everywhere now but the end user's experience is still very lackluster at best. Why is sending the consumer a message with a link via a Bluetooth signal going to be any better? Because it's easier to choose one of what will be hundreds of IBeacon Apps, then download it to find out it doesn't work at that store or in this beacon network. Or the fact the consumer will have to take time to set it up with likes and dislikes then they'll turn it off after about 15 minutes while trying to have some quiet time at a coffee shop in the center of downtown where there will be 180 Ibeacons placed at each store front's entrance :)? That has a 150 foot radius. Hey I love this stuff and I use it all ...well some times and I'm a mobile guy :). I think at first just like anything else it will be awesome! I hope so, as mentioned before we have some ideas and plan on launching a model later this year. But this is new space, and no different than SMS was 10 yrs ago needs to be smartly managed so the consumer doesn't get hurt, offended, annoyed etc.. They'll just turn us off.
  11. Drake LaDue from Brand X Mobile , June 17, 2014 at 7:55 p.m.
    Paul: Just an FYI Ibeacon does not follow just reads when your in the perimeter as long as the app is on, you've signed up somewhere that contacting you is OK and then it will send you a message.
  12. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin , June 17, 2014 at 7:58 p.m.
    Just to make clear, Drake, there is one beacon at a store, not 180, though you make some good points. If the messages are not valuable, consumers can easily turn off Bluetooth. And as to QR codes, you are right, they were very much misused initially, though many in the market have dramatically improved post-scan engagement (this is a topic at the upcoming MediaPost OMMA mCommerce conference in New York on Aug. 7. Here's a link to the agenda if you want to check it out http://www.mediapost.com/ommamcommerce/agenda/
  13. Drake LaDue from Brand X Mobile , June 17, 2014 at 9:15 p.m.
    Sorry thought it was an 8 :) but does it really make a difference? :) Point is the same.
  14. Drake LaDue from Brand X Mobile , June 17, 2014 at 9:23 p.m.
    I'm sitting on this tomorrow, http://www.triangleinteractive.org/events/how-to-attract-on-the-go-customers-a-mobile-marketing-discussion, and on this, http://www.charlotteima.org/category/events/, on the 25th, No idea why they haven't posted it yet. If you folks need another Mobile Mouth to speak or answer questions let me know I'd be happy to come up.
  15. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin , June 17, 2014 at 9:27 p.m.
    You can email me directly on that, Drake (Chuck@MediaPost.com)
  16. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging , June 18, 2014 at 4:02 a.m.
    Worth trying. I've never believed in the one-retailer-one-app model, because (a) who has time to download 100 apps and keep them updated and (b) there must be a global way to manage marketing pressure or else people will uninstall. This seems more likely to work, provided tourists are convinced to install the single app.
  17. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin , June 18, 2014 at 12:50 p.m.
    Good point, Pete, that would be a lot of apps for a shopper to deal with. Time will tell.