The advent of Smartphones has drastically changed the shopping psyche of the consumer. Every shopper is armed with a smart device, and while they look for product and price options, their purchasing decision is influenced by friends, review websites and multiple other channels. Apple’s iBeacon technology holds a promise to retailers directly looking to engage with mobile-equipped customers.
The battleground: Showrooming
The modern retailer’s nightmare is being a physical showroom for e-commerce sites: they end up carrying the costs of product display while often the actual purchase goes to online stores that offer more attractive pricing at the click of a button. The variety of applications that are available in the market, it is possible to scan a barcode in a store and get the prices simultaneously on Amazon. This makes showrooming the exact place where the battle lines are drawn for physical retail and the digital world.
The iBeacon technology is not rocket science and simply offers devices proximity information via BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy. It is, however, connecting the dots between a consumer using a smartphone app and the physical store environment.
Assuming the user has agreed to accept iBeacon transmissions through a brand’s native app, it will actually be possible to follow their post-click, real-world journey, direct them to a product and give them an incentive to buy when they get there.
The brownie point for beacons is that they can eliminate or work on the level of attrition of customers. Instead of clicking through to Amazon for a price comparison, the product information can be ‘pushed’ to your phone, incentives delivered, and loyalty points offered based on proximity to the actual product. This keeps the customer engaged in the store and keeps their mind focused on the product rather than fidgeting with multiple online resources to look for better incentives and offers. The concentration diverts from typing the product name on the search bar to actually experiencing the product and getting to know more about it in-store.
The most significant issue most brick and mortar retailers have with the practice of “showrooming” is potential customers making a purchase online at a competitors website. However, by enabling customers with an in-house mobile app that allows them to touch, feel and experience the products physically and then use the same app to purchase online through the in-house e-commerce platform, it ensures the customer isn’t lost to the competition. In this regard, iBeacons can play a significant role in relaying in-store experiences to shoppers and with the right e-commerce enabling applications to offer a means to turn showrooming into a positive for the retailer as well as the customer.
We can expect to see some interesting uses of iBeacon and proximity technology in engaging shoppers in store and be combating the negative effects of showrooming for brick and mortar retailers.