Contributed Article in Total Retail
Written by Bill Siwicki
Beacons are a mobile marketing technology poised to transform the way consumers shop in stores and the ways stores market to and interact with their customers.
Push notifications triggered by beacons — tiny store-based transmitters that communicate with retailers’ mobile apps on consumers’ smartphones via Bluetooth Low Energy wireless technology — will influence $4.1 billion in U.S. retail sales at the top 100 retailers in 2015, mobile technology research firm BI Intelligence estimates. The firm predicts that number will soar to $44.4 billion in 2016 as use of beacons increases and merchants begin to formulate actual mobile in-store strategies.
Web-only retailers and TV retailers (think Amazon.com, eBay, Groupon, QVC, HSN) pioneered the first wave of mobile commerce. These digital merchants understood fairly quickly that smartphones and tablets would change the way they do business. So they changed.
Chain retailers, however, with some exceptions, have been behind in embracing mobile commerce and mobile marketing technologies, especially where it can help them most — in stores. Digital sales (including mobile) accounted for 7 percent of total retail sales in the U.S. in this year’s first quarter, according to fresh data from the U.S. Census Bureauand U.S. Commerce Department. In other words, the gigantic majority of shopping still occurs in-store.
However, at the same time, consumers have grown accustomed to the wonders of shopping online — e.g., customer reviews, “people who bought this also bought that” product recommendations, endless aisles, product demonstration videos, sharing pictures with or asking for help from friends, search, sort or filter results, compare prices. And then, of course, consumers have adopted mobile devices faster than any technology in human history. In January, for example, 76 percent of U.S. mobile phone users owned a smartphone, found digital measurement firm comScore.