Beacon technology and Big Data

How Beacons and Big Data Are Changing the Way We Shop

Once true industry-wide beacon capability is realized, the potential for data warehousing becomes massive, uncovering radical new consumer insights.

Consumer data insights are one of the key ways retailers maximize profit. By analyzing behavior on online sites and through point-of-sale systems, major retailers are able to track individual customer actions.

Crucial discoveries like what items are bought most frequently together, common upsells, items that correspond to a consumer’s life changes and products with high webpage conversions can all drive major retail decisions through every level of the organization.

Yet, 59% of retailers claim that a lack of consumer insights is still their biggest data pain point. Many brands are dissatisfied with their ability to explain patterns, predict trends or attribute a single customer’s journey through multiple sites and store locations. Attribution tactics are helping lessen this pain point, but a major breakthrough is coming from beacons, battery-powered Bluetooth devices.

How Beacons Are Changing the Retail Experience

Beacons create ways to “digitize” a physical retail space. This capability is driven in large part by smartphones.

Studies show that 79% of smartphone users and 86% of tablet users are utilizing mobile devices for online shopping and product browsing activities. While many of these research forays occur as an absent-minded way to pass the time, the browsing data that is created during these searches pieces together a customer persona with unique interests and buying pathways.

When this same customer walks into a beacon-enabled store, the system can register all of that person’s shopping data and compile it with their in-store behaviors to construct a view of how they behave both online and in-person. Their traffic patterns around the store can also generate “heat” maps to help retailers understand how different segments navigate store space, allowing them to make crucial stocking and layout decisions that maximize in-store conversions.

Loyalty First, Then the World

While these capabilities are tremendous, only loyalty program customers are currently able to access them. This constraint exists because the current beacon ecosystem relies entirely on proprietary loyalty apps.

Google’s Eddystone project promises to dismantle these barriers and make beacons more accessible to everyone. Instead of having each retailer use their own app, beacons can natively interact with consumer devices that opt-in, allowing for less barriers to entry and even data sharing between brands.

Even being restricted to loyalty customers is hardly a disadvantage. Beacons can enable incentives like giving currency for store visits while also opening the door for highly personalized offers that dynamically appear during in-store browsing. Adding browsing information will uncover yet another angle in the retailer’s pursuit of getting that coveted complete perspective.

However, once true industry-wide beacon capability is realized, the potential for data warehousing becomes massive. Thousands of retail locations will be generating data on footfall, store traffic heat maps, promotional conversions and the like. Those that are willing to collaborate could learn more than they ever dreamed about consumers.


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