Search, Beacon, And When To Click On The Light

Timing is everything. Build a loyalty program now, and by the time the holidays roll around opt-ins should provide a solid based for location-based services. Some 58% of retailers participating in a recent survey believe loyalty campaigns have a positive impact on sales, but only 34% plan to run one during the back-to-school shopping season. With the holiday shopping season approaching, marketers should start thinking about how to integrate search campaigns with check-ins over location-based technology like Apple's iBeacon to improve the entire online and offline experience.

Brand marketers and retailers should spend the next two months building on loyalty programs that tie into search and location-based campaigns. Search campaigns bring consumers into stores and opt-in location-based services like iBeacon serve discount offers and coupons.

Merchant Warehouse surveyed more than 100 small business owners and managers that sell back-to-school items and more than 700 back-to-school shoppers in June 2014. While 85% of shoppers note they tend to shop at the same retailers year after year for back-to-school, 91% note that they are "somewhat likely," and 26% "somewhat likely" to switch their choice of retailer if a promotion or reward applies. 

Search marketers and retailers should closely watch the iBeacon rollouts at Major League Baseball ballparks. While not a retailer, MLB was among the first to embrace Apple's iBeacon technology. Teams in the league banned together, similar to the way retailers should in shopping malls, and installed the technology in 28 ballparks across the U.S. In phase two, MBL will run a project at this year's All-Star Game at Target Field tying together iBeacons with nine park attractions to offer additional content and interactive features.

Ninety-seven percent of retailers that ran back-to-school loyalty campaigns last year had positive experiences and plan to run one again this year, per the study's findings. That wasn't always the case. As more take advantage of data tracking and analysis, 65%, positive results begin to emerge.

Several challenges hold retailers back from executing back-to-school loyalty campaigns on mobile app and social media, with 56% planning to run a loyalty campaign via mobile apps and 65% with social media. Some 24% of retailers said they would run back-to-school shopping loyalty campaigns via a mobile app.

A lack of technology among small businesses doesn't seem to be the issue. Only 18% of businesses surveyed report they will not run a loyalty campaign during this back-to-school season because their business lacks the required technology resources.

Plastic seems to have become the preferred way to redeem offers. Consumers ranked plastic loyalty and rewards cards as the most preferred method of redeeming promotions or rewards and paper punch cards as the least.

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