In today’s competitive market, retailers are focusing on implementing unified commerce, “the evolution of both multi-channel and omni-channel retailing that provides a seamless experience in the store, on the Web or anywhere customers choose to shop,” according to a blog post by Ken Morris of Boston Retail Partners. He explains that, according to the 2014 CMR/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey, within five years, 75 percent of retailers plan to identify customers when they walk in the store. Currently, only 3 percent have the capability to do so, but many more retailers are looking to integrate the necessary technology in their stores.
Beacon technology is a key element to unified commerce. According to Cooper Smith of Business Insider, “merchants have a large appetite for beacons.” These devices communicate with consumers’ smartphones via a Bluetooth signal and recognize customers when they enter a store. John McDermott of Digiday explains some of the benefits of beacons. He says, “When placed in a store, beacons use Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones and send them media such as ads, coupons, or supplementary product information. They can also be used as point of sale systems and to collect information on those consumers — particularly how consumers maneuver through stores.”
Beacons also have the potential to impact how retailers advertise in store. Dirk Rients, mobile director at DDB, predicted beacons would allow stores to create their own in-store advertising networks. McDermott writes, “grocery stores could place beacons in their beverage aisles and have Coca-Cola and Pepsi or Miller, Coors, and Anheuser-Busch bid against one another for the exclusive right to advertise via those beacons.”
As with all data sharing devices, there are privacy concerns. Transparency is paramount. But Rients says, “Consumers are open to sharing certain data with brands and advertisers as long as you’re providing some value to them.”