ibeaconBeacons, or iBeacons are the latest technology being used to great effect in innovative retail and point-of-interest environments. You will rarely read an article about new retail, eCommerce or omnichannel strategy, without coming across a reference to Beacons.

So what are these enigmatic devices, and why are they widely considered to be the future of retail?

Beacons were unveiled to the world in late 2013 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. They take advantage of the Nokia developed low-energy (long battery life) Bluetooth technology, as well as low energy proximity sensing technology, to perform pre-assigned actions when a Bluetooth enabled device comes into range.

In essence, a Beacon allows for mobile devices to interact directly with objects and features in their immediate environment. Apps, compatible with privately owned Beacons, will communicate with each beacon and provide relevant notifications or functionality to the user.

Applications for in-store are obvious: Small coin sized Beacons with short range proximity could be attached to individual products, sending information or customer reviews about the product directly to an interested shopper’s phone. Methods such as these combat the ‘showrooming’ mentality of a modern consumer, providing them with in-depth information on demand to drive informed sales.

Other applications could include a centralized Beacon providing sales options, allowing direct payment for goods through systems such as the new Apple Pay, thereby creating a more streamlined and convenient shopping experience.

Beacons could also prove to be a useful research tool for retailers. Strategically placed Beacons could be used to create a map of customer pathing through a store, and can indicate how much time the average customer lingers in a certain place, or how far they venture into a store before leaving. This information is invaluable for product placement and store layout strategy.

The information could also be used to create behavioral loyalty programs, which reward customer habits rather than direct purchases. This could extend even to sending a customer a special offer on a product they have examined on several occasions, or for a certain amount of time, although retailers must be careful not to intrude too much on a customer’s personal choices.

iBeacons and other such omnichannel devices are changing the retail landscape in ways never before imagined. The online and in-store retail worlds are edging ever closer together.

By Redbox Digital