Beacons 101: What Smart Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Need to Know

May 17, 2016         By: Erika Napoletano

Your brick-and-mortar business knows all about surviving. Now, it’s time to think about thriving. If you’re not familiar with beacon technology, you’re not alone. Beacons are an easy way for businesses to identify, track, and reward both nearby and in-store visitors — and they do it all via your customer’s favorite device: their smartphone.

Beacons transmit a weak signal via Bluetooth, which is detected by smart devices with the right corresponding installed app (for example, a restaurant’s or retailer’s app). The beacons can then enhance the in-store customer experience by tempting shoppers with app-only deals, discounts, offers and alerts. Your customers get what they want and you get more of what you crave (increased sales and loyalty).

“Beacons offer businesses an inroad to delivering personalized, targeted messaging to customers at the right place and the right time – when they’re in the store shopping and engaged,” said Soumya Chakrabarty, Director of Research & Development at Discover. “They also enable merchants to integrate with their existing loyalty programs or marketing campaigns and deliver them more seamlessly to customers and potentially drive increased sales.”

Business Insider projected that beacons would be responsible for influencing over $4 billion in sales in 2015, expecting that figure to grow ten-fold in 2016.[1] With numbers like that looming, let’s take a look at how your brick-and-mortar business can tap into the power of beacons and put them to work sooner rather than later.

All about Beacons

Beacons themselves are low-cost devices, perhaps in the $5-10 dollar range each. They emit what’s called a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) signal that wakes up designated apps within a 150-200-foot radius. When those apps activate, customers will find everything from welcome messages to in-store offers.

Beacon Benefits

Beacons offer a level of personalized service for your customers, instantly rewarding or acknowledging them as they step foot through your door – or even in a certain part of your store.

Imagine reaching a customer who just stepped inside to meet a friend for lunch and sending them an in-app offer for an appetizer.

Or the ability to welcome a customer back and invite them to take a look at your spring merchandise sitting to the right of the cash stand.

All these things are possible with beacon technology. Digital punch-card programs, discount offers for boots when your customer is looking at boots — beacons meet your customers where they are (in your store) with more of what they want.

Where to Get Beacons

OK, so you’re sold on beacons and how they can boost your connection with customers. But where do you get them? You can check out companies such as Shopkick, Swirl, and Flok, each one catering to a range of different business needs.

05.17.16 - Beacons 101 Infographic - FINAL

This article was brought to you by Discover Network. For more insights into consumer trends and the world of payments, visit Discover Network Perspectives.

[1] Business Insider, Feb. 9, 2015, “How beacons – small, low-cost gadgets – will influence billions in retail sales”