Beacons and Big Data: A Powerful Pair for Retail

Businesses large and small are fast realizing the importance of big data and are investing huge amounts of time and money to gather it. For retailers, the ROI potential from unified big data collection is exponential. After all, retailers collect online sales data, mobile and apps data, customer footfall data, as well as enterprise integrations for loyalty, CRM and ERP. 

Ideally, such a large repository of data should enable retailers to enhance customer experiences in a big way. But currently, that is not the case. According to an IBM survey, 71% of chief marketing officers around the globe say their organization is unprepared to deal with the explosion of big data over the next few years. Why is there such a large number of unprepared CMOs? Because unifying disparate data sources across silos is a difficult tech problem to solve.

To put these challenges in a nutshell:

  • Offline customer behavior is difficult and expensive to capture
  • Online behavior is easy to capture but difficult to interpret
  • Mobile behavior is tricky to capture, and normally difficult to interpret

Enter beacons: mobile-enabled tracking tech with location data and context makes all the pieces fit together seamlessly.

Retailers: The Beacon Bastions of the Future

Beacons provide businesses with endless opportunities to collect massive amounts of untapped data, such as the number of beacon hits and customer dwell time at a particular location within a specified time and date range, busiest hours throughout the day or week, number of people who walk by a location each day, etc. This data then allows retailers to accordingly make improvements to products, staff allocation in various departments and services, and so on. 

Following are a few metrics that can be captured by integrating beacons with your CRM system:

  • Footfall, visits online, visits through apps
  • Recency and frequency of visits, behavior and transactions 
  • Merchandising and marketing effectiveness
  • Loyalty program utilization 
  • Service quality, queue and abandonment 
  • Capacity planning and resource utilization through mobile in-store combination analytics

How Retailers Can Streamline Customer Experiences with Beacons

1. Personalize offers and suggestions to loyal customers  

A recent study suggests that for 61% of brands, repeat customers drive more than half of their revenue. Today, a consumer’s decision to buy and interact with a brand is often based on the ability of the brand to reward them for the time and money spent.

While beacons are popularly known for delivering contextual content, they also allow for a deeper understanding of your customers’ shopping behavior by providing analytics around online, in-app and in-store behaviors, brand affinities, favorite products, demographics, location and more. This deep data helps you develop personalized initiatives to boost profits and retention. Beacons can give you an overview of the number of accumulated loyalty points on a shopper’s mobile app and thus offer personalized alerts and high-value rewards. 

A good example of how beacons can be used to leverage loyalty programs is the Bay Area’s popular quick service soup, sandwich and salad chain, San Francisco Soup Company.

SF Company (as it is popularly known) uses beacons to automatically identify loyalty program members with Bluetooth-enabled smartphones when they are near a specific location. The company’s customized rewards program empowers its customers with the ability to find the nearby restaurant outlet, earn loyalty points and redeem rewards through their smartphones. The soup chain uses beacons to collect customer data to accurately market services to their target audience.

For example, say a loyalty program member occasionally drops in to enjoy a cup of hot and sour chicken soup. SF Company uses beacons to deliver a customized notification with an offer coupon on that particular soup to the customer’s mobile device when he or she walks by the outlet. The highly personalized nature of this rewards program helps SF Soup Company increase foot traffic and drive sales at its outlets.

2. Optimize store layouts and product placement

Beacons help retailers find popular locations in their store, then optimize store layouts and product placement based on navigational patterns. By tracking customer dwell times at various sections and their entire path within the store, you can understand which sections are the most popular and invest in those sections to optimize your ROI. You can also perform A/B testing to understand if a particular type of product sells more because of its own popularity or because of its placement in the store.

You can even tie this data back into your ecommerce system, to optimize your website, merchandising zones on desktop and mobile such that it matches customer behavior from city to city. 

3. Help customers locate items in-store

Retailers can get customers’ shopping lists, wish lists and favorites from their app, and help them locate items that are available in-store and guide them to a particular aisle from where it can be picked up. 

Beacons can be used to support turn-by-turn directions, thus allowing customers to easily locate products in-store. You could even combine it with a voice or text search function, to make things handy for customers who involve themselves in a speedy grab-and-go shopping.

Tesco recently leveraged beacons to offer better in-store customer service. The grocery store giant is piloting beacons in its Chelmsford, MA location as part of an experiment with a specific app called MyStore. The app allows customers to create a shopping list at home and, when they arrive at a store, beacons notify them about their online order being ready for pickup. This way they aim to use push messaging to add value to their customers’ shopping experience.

4. Empower sales associates

Stores today are looking to empower sales associates with a full view of every customer. This encompasses purchase history, location, shopping preferences and social profiles – which give access to relevant shopping information such as birthdays, brand affinities and more. Relaying such important information about your customer to sales associates will help them get a better idea on how they should approach the customer. 

While we understand the importance of big data, it’s extremely crucial to identify, gather, correlate and analyze the right data to help your business grow. Using beacons, you can optimize customer experiences, improve business processes and generate more revenue. Combining big data and beacons allows for a data-driven business strategy that is a win for your brand and a win for the customer.