Beacons To Solve 'Click And Collect' Hassle - Just Add Mobile Payment And You'll Be Really Talking

What an exciting time for beacon technology and retail. There has always been a lot of promise there, but finally it looks like start-ups are nearing readiness for retail rollout.

In fact, you couldn't get much more of a thumbs up from retailers for the technology than a rollout of beacons along Regent Street -- and now, John Lewis investing £100k in Localz. The start-up won its JLab competition to showcase a retail technology the co-operatviely owned chain of department stores should invest in.

Most people in retail have been convinced for quite some time that beacons will revolutionise shopping by making the link between online and offline for people walking through their doors. A lot has been said about offers and greetings, and these will no doubt be important but they could also be a factor that puts people off.

So I have long been convinced that any digital technology has to solve a problem to be well used. It has to serve customers better. That's why it's so interesting to see that throwing offers, no matter how well targeted, does not appear to be a major part of the technology John Lewis is backing. 

Instead it solves the two key problems a lot of people have in joining up their online experience at home and their visit to a store. Namely, how do I get my "click and collect" order without hanging around and "where's all the stuff on my wish list"?

Anyone who has put in a "click and collect" order will know how confusing it can be for shoppers and staff alike. I once had to wait half an hour at one store for a suitcase to be found and don't get me started on the confusion around whether I had prepaid for the item or not (I had, by the way).

So forewarning staff that you have entered the building so that it would be a good idea to have your products ready is a great way of making the shopper's journey that little bit easier, particularly if it comes with directions to the unmarked door that usually doubles up as a warehouse entrance as well as a place to dish out click and collect orders.

Same goes for the wish list. A store like John Lewis is well known for allowing couples to set up wedding lists, which this would seem perfectly well suited to. Being able to access the list and get guided to the items makes a lot of good sense, just as it would if you had a personal wish list when setting up your own home, getting ready for a holiday or sending the kids back to school.

As I say, being useful is at the heart of all this. So being able to redeem vouchers and collect loyalty points will be useful, when Localz is rolled out. 

So too will be mobile payments, however. Integration with Apple Pay (which will hopefully be in the UK next year some time) and PayPal would be incredibly useful as we wait for high street banks to have the common sense to allow us to store credit and debit cards in our phones and, soon enough, our smart watches, perhaps?

Add the payment, rewards and coupon elements and I think John Lewis will soon establish itself as a leader in the field.

The offers and greetings can come later, in a measured and highly targeted way. For now, simply taking the hassle and guesswork out of picking up orders and finding items on a wish list will be major steps forward for this technology that hold so much promise.

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