Have you ever gone shopping and felt like you were being followed or, at the very least, closely watched? Chances are, you probably are being followed—by Bluetooth and WiFi technology-guided beacons that the store owner has set up.
By knowing your every move inside their stores, merchants can use the latest technology to help increase sales. Beacon technology lets them track what you look at within their stores; based on the information, the software can push targeted coupons and ads to your smartphone.
At a rudimentary level, this may come off as intrusive, but it not only provides customers with directional cues in the store, it also rewards them with coupons simply by visiting the store or looking at specific items on display.
Retailers benefit because they learn what products their customers are interested in, and ideally, by offering on-the-spot coupons, the technology will drive shoppers to make a purchase at the store rather than later from an online merchant. Beacon technology also helps merchants improve how they structure their store setups. Product makers, too, can get involved by bidding for specific interior store locations and then advertising their products with beacons.
For consumers to truly benefit, however, their phones will not only have to be connected to the Internet, but in most cases, the application for the store must be opened via Bluetooth in order for the beacon to reach them. This latest wave of technology, most commonly referred to as proximity marketing, will have great appeal to some shoppers, little appeal to others and everything in between.
Wave of the Future
This technology may soon be fast-tracked into the mainstream thanks to Apple's advanced iBeacon sensor, which can be detected by a shopper’s phone (if it's an iOS device), even if the shopper hasn't opened the store's app. When the phone detects the beacon, the store's app is activated, eliminating the need for the shopper to remember to turn on the appropriate app when entering a store. Stores using this technology then have the ability to direct you to a sale on shoes, for instance, that you didn’t even know existed when all you were shopping for was a new toaster oven.
Macy’s is one of many popular retailers who’s jumping on the beacon bandwagon. The department store chain installed more than 4,000 “shopBeacon” devices in its stores this fall; its Shopkick application is the conduit. Look for other giant retailers to jump on the tracking technology bandwagon.
Shoppers who would prefer to avoid proximity marketing can protect their privacy by turning off their phone's Internet connection or keeping their phone disconnected while shopping. Concerned consumers can opt out at the Smart Store Privacy website.
It's likely, however, that shoppers will come to think of beacon technology as no more intrusive than the store’s security cameras that watch their every move or the security guard who keeps an eye on people entering and exiting the store. And for retailers, this could be the next big thing in marketing, creating a better shopping experience for their customers and increased revenues for themselves.
Robert Siciliano is the author of four books, including 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before ... Your Identity Was Stolen. He's also a corporate media consultant and speaker on personal security and identity theft. Find out more at www.RobertSiciliano.com.
Read more articles on marketing.
Photo: Getty Images