Foreword Online

Ideas, information and industry news for collegiate retailers

Beacons in Retail: What You Need to Know

Posted by Liz Schulte on 8/23/18 5:30 AM
Topics: new technology, retail technology, Bookstore marketing

A customer walks into your store, eyes glued to their phone. Barely acknowledging the employee’s greeting, they wander through the store briefly before leaving without making a purchase. This is common in retail. Consumers are distracted, and it is hard to get their attention. That’s where smart beacons can change the store’s interaction with the customer, making the experience better for both.

Beacons in Retail: What You Need to KnowBeacons aren’t new to the retail technology scene, but since their creation in 2010, businesses have been slow to adopt the products. In 2016 retail use of smart beacons began to grow and large companies took notice. Heineken conducted a proximity mobile campaign with compelling results. It is estimated the company increased revenue by $320,000, they had 200,000 customer engagements and the purchase intent was increased sevenfold — all through the use of smart beacons. Beacons are also providing businesses better insight into local marketing. In a study conducted by Google, smart beacons were found to increase incremental store visits driven by mobile search ads more than the number of online purchase conversions.


A beacon is a small, inexpensive device that emits a low-energy Bluetooth signal. The devices are about the size of a sticker and can be placed almost anywhere within a store. It sends out a transmission that interacts with the store’s app, allowing for better proximity marketing and a more personalized customer experience. Macy’s used the technology to offer discounts and rewards, as well as make recommendations — a personalization common in some online shopping, but less so in department stores. Resulting in a better experience for the shopper.

The benefits of beacons

Consider the constant stream of traffic passing by your store every day. Traditionally, you would put up a sale sign in the window and some people would notice it and come inside if they had time. More people might have attended the sale, but they might not have seen the sign. That usually leads to buying an ad, depending on budget, probably in a newspaper. This might increase traffic, but it depends on people reading the ad and remembering to come in the day of the sale. This is where beacons and proximity marketing change the game. You can still do all the marketing you did before, but now there is a better way to reach the people who are near your location.

People hardly ever put down their phone — 90% of text messages are read within three minutes. Having your app push a notification to a customer’s phone when they are near your store has enormous potential. In a recent study, 73% of shoppers who received a beacon message said it increased the likelihood of them making a purchase and 61% said they would visit the store more often. Customers want that experience.

The problem with beacons

No technology is perfect. There are downsides to using beacon technology. Beacons utilize Bluetooth to interact with the app on the customer’s phone. The customer’s phone, in turn, would also have to have Bluetooth turned on, which poses a security risk for your customers. If customers are connected to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the risk is greater.  Another downside is, as more companies start using beacons to alert customers, people will be bombarded with notifications which can turn the message quickly into white noise or make it irritating.

Retail capabilities in technology have grown considerably in the last 10 years, but there is always more to come. Whether it is virtual reality goggles that let customers try on clothes without hassle or artificial intelligence that is capable of offering an expert opinion in any area, customers are becoming more accustomed to receiving a personalized experiences in stores similar to those they receive online.

Article comments

Subscribe for updates

Share your experience

Contact our editorial team to set up an interview or to contribute a guest post.

Most popular posts