Bluetooth Beacons and the Future of Retail

Written by Intern - 20 Oct 2014

Bluetooth logo

As part of this year’s Brighton Digital Festival, the future of retail was discussed at an event hosted by Rakuten DC Storm. DC Storm, a company that specialises in data-driven marketing, made a number of exciting predictions based on recent or emerging digital breakthroughs in retail. These included:

  • Drone deliveries to your home – as being pioneered by Amazon
  • Virtual changing rooms –an augmented reality version of yourself to see what you look like in an item of clothing without actually trying it on
  • Smart labels – enabling shoppers to find out more about a product from its label. For example, recipe ideas, manufacturing process or ‘see this garment on the catwalk’ videos
  • Bluetooth Beacons (iBeacons) – Bluetooth notifications to shoppers in or nearby a store. They could include details of special offers or clearance items, for example
  • Fingerprint payment authentication

While some of these ideas may seem quite far-fetched, they are very achievable, and their uptake will come down to the cost of implementation and consumer appetite.

When asked which emerging trends are the most exciting, Paul Cruise, Head of Sales at DC Storm, explained that for marketing professionals the introduction of Bluetooth Beacons has the greatest potential.

The notifications and alerts sent to shoppers are the immediate and obvious benefits, but there’s also a far less obvious, but more valuable, outcome for marketing professionals.

Shopping habits that transcend online and in-store

If you’re like me, then you might find a product online and then head to the shop where you can make a beeline to the preselected product for a quick, hands-on, pre-purchase verification. Or, conversely, you might find the product in the shop, and then buy it online later so you don’t need to lug it around town.

If you take either of these two approaches to shopping, you’re messing with a marketing analyst’s data, for the analyst will count you as two shoppers rather than just one, because he or she has no way of connecting the customer journey between online and the high street.

Bluetooth Beacons help the analyst join these dots.

The problem with ‘last click’ attribution

Joining the online and in-store journeys together is very important when it comes to attribution, and helps allocate marketing budget more efficiently. ‘Attribution' is the term describing  where a sale has come from, but the process for taking this measurement is often flawed – particularly with the ‘last click’ model, where the point of purchase is seen as being the sole contributing factor to the sale.

If, for example, I find a new jacket in a shop and then buy it later online, the analyst will attribute the sale to online and invest further in online marketing. If we reverse the journey, and I find the jacket online but buy it in-store, then – in the eyes of the analyst – my visit to the website was of no value to the business. Badly measured attribution is like thinking the scorer in a 1-0 football match was the only player of any value.

Connecting the online and high street customer journey

Bluetooth Beacons are a step towards helping the analyst connect the online and in-store customer journey. If a shopper has logged into a retailer’s website on their phone and that phone has been identified as entering the store via a Bluetooth signal, attribution becomes far more accurate and advertising budget can be spent more efficiently.

I can see how this would be hugely beneficial to the marketing professional but, as mentioned earlier, the wide scale adoption of any of these trends will depend on consumer appetite. Unless there’s a very compelling reason for shoppers to sign up for alerts, there’s a good chance they’ll quickly become an annoyance and shoppers will opt out of the scheme faster than you can say Quick Response Code.

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