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How will beacon technology be used in retail?

Apple introduced iBeacons in 2013 and activated the technology across its 254 retail stores, and forward-thinking retailers began testing the technology in stores in early 2014. Beacons enable more granular location awareness that GPS alone cannot provide, meaning they offer tremendous potential to target customers with relevant, personalized and appropriately timed messages. But after more than a year, most retailers are still in the testing phase, according to Mobile Payments Today.

“The year started off with considerable hype around beacon technology and the opportunities it presents for in-store engagement,” Jordan McKee, a senior analyst with 451 Research, told Mobile Payments Today. “Pilots running the gamut from malls to retailers to sporting venues to airports were seen, although large-scale launches remain nearly nonexistent.”

Retailers are still learning how to use beacons to their customers’ and businesses’ benefit. Retailers must find ways to get consumers to opt in to receive messages from the retailer. As Brent Hieggelke writes in Marketing Land, retailers must “meet an appropriate value-to-privacy exchange.” In other words, they have to give customers a good incentive for downloading a beacon-enabled app and giving away location information.

Brand loyalists may also help spur adoption. Loyal customers or brand fans are the most likely to download a retailer’s app. Because Beacons rely on passive technology, customers with the app won’t have to take any action to enjoy the benefits of the technology. When they’re looking at a pair of shoes, for example, a beacon located in the shoe department can recognize the customer’s proximity and push a coupon to their mobile device. Because that customer has downloaded the app, he or she gets access to exclusive deals with very little effort. Other customers are likely to take note.

According to Red Ant, Beacons provide a wealth of opportunities that are likely to spur more widespread adoption in 2015. “By creating a mesh of beacons and using triangulation, shopping centers, large stores or even public spaces like museums and stadiums can start providing their visitors with the convenience of really useful information based on their immediate environment – with an accuracy measured in inches rather than feet.”

Data from a recent Swirl survey shows that North American shoppers are engaging with and acting on beacon campaigns in stores. According to the survey, 60 percent of shoppers open and engage with beacon-triggered content, and 30 percent of shoppers redeem beacon-triggered offers at the point of purchase.

As retailers uncover more creative uses of beacons, it may be easier to communicate their value and get customers to buy into the trend. And as Business Insider notes, beacons have applications beyond retail. “We expect beacons to be deployed all over airports and ground transit hubs so that notifications on departures, delays, and gate and platform assignments can be delivered instantly to passenger phones.”

To learn more, download our “Top Mobile Retail Trends for 2015″ whitepaper.

Lanier Norville

Lanier Norville

Lanier Norville has been writing and editing for online publications for six years. Before joining AirWatch, she was the editor of three medical technology magazines including the award-winning publication TechNation.


  1. Devika Girish

    Great post Lanier. I totally agree with what you said. Retailers all over have doubled down on their proximity marketing efforts by incorporating beacons at various points of their customers’ buying journey. In fact, with beacons predicted to directly influence over $4 billion worth of US retail sales this year and retail brands are all set to move out of the pilot phase into mainstream beacon deployments effecting payments, and loyalty programs.Another important fact is that, merely deploying beacons won’t give you an edge. Retailers need to invest in data analytics and use this intelligence to drive conversions and increase revenue. For this, it is crucial that retailers have a solid understanding of the metrics involved in data-driven decision making. We have discussed in detail on what are the different metrics that brick and mortar store retailers need to measure to offer a better experience to shoppers here. It talks about various metrics to be tracked under various segments- right from customer path to loyalty and customer engagement:

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