Target has just become one of the largest retailers to test a technology known as beacons, which are small transmitters placed above a shelf that send signals a short distance. The beacons link to shoppers’ smartphones through the Target app, sending them relevant coupons, deals and product recommendations based on where they are in the store.
The experiment is Target’s first major foray into beacons, starting with 50 stores in markets such as Denver, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco as well as in 15 stores in the Twin Cities.
But Target doesn’t want to irritate customers with messages constantly popping up on their screens. So in this initial test, they will limit the number of push notifications to two per shopping trip. In an effort to be even more upfront about it, Target has also added a third opt-in screen asking shoppers to enable the beacon service it’s calling “Target Run.”
Retailers such as Macy’s, GameStop and American Eagle Outfitters are also weighing the pros and cons of the location-based technology. In the process, they are testing customers’ comfort with letting them track their movements.
“We’re seeing the 1.0 of beacons,” said Maya Mikhailov, co-founder of GPShopper, a firm that works with retailers on beacons and other mobile technology. “Right now a lot of retailers are just trying to figure out best practices and how to use this without annoying customers.”
While shoppers have become accustomed to being given personalized product recommendations while browsing online, the practice of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store has remained a fairly anonymous experience. Beacons are one way retailers want to try to bring that customized online experience to the stores.
“Target might know something about me from my online shopping, but when I go into a store, I’m a complete stranger,” Mikhailov said.