Commentary

Over-Beaconed Shoppers Opt Out

Retailers on both sides of the Atlantic have begun experimenting with the use of in-store beacons. Beacons are used to attract consumers to specific in-store locations. When using Bluetooth in combination with retailer or third-party mobile apps, beacons can deliver shopping discounts or product information at the point of decision-making within a store. 

In-store beacons are in an early stage of rollout, so applications and benefits remain under study. As reported in a previous article in MCommerceDaily, there are potential perils to their overuse. Shoppers who are “over-beaconed” may opt out of an app that uses them -- not just the beaconing feature. Clearly, there must be a careful balance between the benefits and incentives that beaconing delivers and the intrusion into an individual’s life and shopping experience. 

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Beacon experiences must be carefully designed. They should have elements of entertainment and information, deliver cost benefits, or provide a combination of these factors. To be successful, beaconing must be executed to deliver individualized shopping experiences using predictive analytics that are based upon previous shopping history.

Beacons have the potential to augment research of an in-store experience or to request feedback from shoppers, for instance, as they exit a store or department. Shoppers might be asked to rate their interactions in a specific department or overall experience as they pass an exit beacon. They could alternatively have the opportunity to report on the experience within an app at a later point in time.

These would act as a replacement to the surveys, which embed links on paper cash register receipts, in which it is too late for a manager to intercede. Cash register receipts are themselves disappearing. Many retailers are turning to an emailed receipt alternative, both to save paper and collect email addresses to support digital initiatives. The opportunity to report customer feedback immediately has the potential to eliminate the public negative social media comments, and prevent other shoppers from being influenced by poor public feedback.

Market research on customer satisfaction is a science unto itself. Retailers carefully benchmark satisfaction on a wide variety of measures that may include everything from brand image to the ability to locate items within a store. Variation of benchmarks from month-to-month or store-to-store helps to  pinpoint problem areas for resolution. 

Beaconing presents opportunities for retailers to use their apps -- either their own in-store apps or third-party options like Shopkick or Swirl -- to engage consumers and begin to monitor the shopping experience. As retail apps have increasingly become accepted by consumers, it is imperative that retailers utilize them to retain customers, vie for their discretionary spending, and motivate them to return. Using beaconing, retailers can obtain valuable data about consumer in-store experiences.

Collecting this data in the moment is inherently more reliable than other research modes, since it is less dependent upon recollection and more indicative of emotional response. Rewards for participation can be based on those already utilized by the retailer. Customer data becomes more centralized and metadata becomes valuable to assess the overall engagement with the customer across shopping channels.

Plus, customers can be more easily leveraged for additional opinions external to the in-store experience. These might include their online experiences, their willingness to provide feedback on Web site or app design, new product ideas, and so forth -- all within the app. 

The inherent pitfall to moving customer satisfaction assessments into the retail environment is more over-beaconing -- inserting one more potential intrusion at a time when the shopper may not wish it. However, there is maneuvering room when shoppers are offered rewards, asked to play a vital role in communications with the store and its associated brands, or are seen and treated as a store loyalist. 

Approaching experiential research with mobile apps increases the overall value proposition and ability to monetize the app. The result can be marketing tightly integrated with -- and influenced by -- research. 

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