Integrated Solutions for Retailers shared this piece from our team today which explains many of the key hesitations retailers have regarding Bluetooth Smart technology. The original article can be viewed, here.
By Bret Cunningham, President, BestFit Mobile
Over the past several years, we’ve seen a major shift in consumer usage of mobile, forging exciting opportunities for shoppers and retailers alike. Bluetooth™ Smart, iBeacon capable (Low Energy Bluetooth or BLE) solutions, in particular, have made waves in industry journals ever since the announcement of iOS 7 in September 2013. Though historically slow to the tech adoption table, consumer demand is driving retailers to set aside their fears and fully accept the technology solutions that are already beginning to transform this industry.
This past January, Forbes proclaimed iBeacon “the future of mobile shopping.” Just last month, an ABI study revealed beacon technology could break 30,000 indoor location installments across eleven major retail verticals by the end of the year. Have no doubts – the Internet of Things is upon us. And if 2014 is the year of the beacon pilot, 2015 will most certainly be the year of the roll out.
Despite this clear momentum, I continue to hear many of the same concerns and fears from retailers, all of which are valid – and easily dispelled.
Retailer fear: Beacons will have limited penetration.
Retailer reality: There are 600 million iOS devices in use today, 82 percent of which run iOS 7 and support beacon technology. Of Android’s 1.9 billion devices in use, only 2.5 follow suit*. Android may be slow to the curve, but bear in mind every Android phone with OS 4.4 and above (including every new Android sold today) supports beacons. It’s coming, and retailers can’t afford to wait to commence pilots.
Retailer fear: Customers are sluggish to adopt beacon technology
Retailer reality: If you use a beacon SDK within your existing customer mobile application for Bluetooth Smart activities (as opposed to a 3rd party app) you can greatly improve likelihood of consumer adoption. Consider focusing some time on rounding out your App Store Optimization (ASO) strategy to boost visibility to your brand’s application. Ensure your new BLE feature offerings are advertised heavily and stress specific values to the consumer on multiple channels, especially in-store, to achieve maximum downloads. While consumer adoption is underway, you can train employees to engage with them via associate facing applications.
Retailer fear: Beacon-based solutions will be too costly.
Retailer reality: Beacons are low cost assets which can last up to two years prior to replacement, but you don’t need thousands to get you started. Firmware can be updated over the air, so you don’t have to replace the hardware as your applications evolve. The cost of development can also be alleviated by partnering with a firm that offers a beacon SDK, which drops into the brand’s existing application and works with beacons of your choosing once they’ve been provisioned. A gradual tech ramp up, with a low-cost pilot and subscription fee-based marketing support contract, is often a more affordable marketing approach to ease into Bluetooth Smart. Not only is this gentler on most operational budgets, but it’s more practical and allows time for both consumers and operations staff to adapt to use cases.
Retailer fear: There will be no measurable ROI.
Retailer reality: Nothing builds bigger baskets than brand loyalty, and nothing builds brand loyalty like a differentiated customer experience that fulfills consumers’ needs – even before they know they need it. A well-honed marketing strategy with beacons as the medium to increase consumer messaging touch points will take service the extra mile, and keep your shoppers coming back for more. Introduce data driven, contextual messaging at key points of decision-making in an in-store retail environment, and increase visibility to highlighted promotions. Beacon facilitated real-time access to ratings and reviews help build baskets, because customers feel empowered by this education and are less likely to fire up a web browser and price shop, elsewhere. Combine this with contextual relevance, and the power of a real-time CRM which mimics the strength of Amazon, and you’ve landed a winning strategy.
Retailer fear: Reliability is an unknown.
Retailer reality: Our steadfast recommendation to our clients is never to leap headfirst into a new technology. Targeted use cases can be implemented with a “crawl, walk, run” approach to get things off the ground at a comfortable and manageable pace. Rollouts are likely to go more smoothly when you depend on existing technologies – your own, familiar branded app – than if you introduce a service from a third party. Lean on your existing network to facilitate your solution.
The Ultimate Solution
Bluetooth Smart capable technologies can be the answer to many open-ended issues retailers face today, with in-store data capture and employee tools that make this data actionable. iBeacon based solutions can seamlessly record customer interactions across touchpoints, both digital and physical, to help optimize store layouts. They can keep customers in the store longer, boosting conversions and, by extension, increasing overall basket size. When established with Bluetooth Smart, iBeacon technology can yield solutions that significantly amplify employee efficiency, ensuring staff are positioned to effectively educate shoppers and close sales. Most importantly, the right solution gives retailers ownership of the data to structure marketing campaigns that exceed sales goals and delight target audiences.
Bret Cunningham is president and COO of BestFit Mobile, North America’s leading mobile strategy firm and iBeacon solutions provider. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, BestFit Mobile develops and markets smartphone-based solutions designed to reinvent how consumers interact with brick-and-mortar retailers, banks, casinos and hotels. Leveraging years of institutional knowledge in Bluetooth™ Smart, BestFit Mobile creates customized solutions for retailers, to reduce showrooming, gain actionable data on shopper behavior and increase sales opportunities, while creating an elegant user experience for the consumer. Additional information on BestFit Mobile is available at www.bestfitmobile.com.
*Patently Apple http://www.patentlyapple.com/