Ideally, when a consumer walks through the door of the brick-and-mortar retail location, they would be greeted at the front by a store employee who would welcome them, ask if they need assistance in finding a particular item, and potentially offer a pamphlet with the latest deals of the day or special in-store promotions. While in-store greeters are becoming few and far between, retailers can still greet their customers through the use of beacon technology.

Major retailers, such as Target, Macy’s and Walmart, are beginning to test the capabilities of beacons. These portable devices can be placed anywhere in a store location, such as on the wall or hidden in a shelf out of sight, and use a smartphone’s Bluetooth connection to transmit information directly to a mobile app that is listening for the beacon’s signal. They essentially create that “tap on the shoulder” to greet consumers as they walk into the store and allow retailers to send information, such as sales alerts, product information, deals or special coupons to a customer’s device. Once the beacon is connected to the mobile device, no longer do consumers have to activate or scan a code every time they shop. Instead, the information is automatically delivered to their smartphone once they walk past the beacon, allowing them to opt in as they freely roam isles.

The foremost advantage of beacons is no other technology can immediately provide customers with the latest deals as they are within proximity of a certain product or offering on the aisle, and consumers are responding positively to them. In fact according to a survey by mobile marketing company Swirl, 30 percent of shoppers who received a beacon-triggered deal are likely to redeem the offer while in store, and 73 percent of respondents said the promotions increased their likelihood to purchase during their store visit. While this new technology is something every retailer seems curious about, and consumers are catching onto, there are certain aspects to consider.

Mobile App Adoption

The main question when considering employing beacon technology is does the retailer have a mobile app in place? Without an app to listen to the beacons, this game-changing technology becomes irrelevant. Retailers must invest in either a branded or a universal app and focus on increasing the consumer adoption rate of it before employing beacon technology.

One thing to remember when deploying a mobile app is that consumers do not want to be bogged down with a mobile app for every store they shop. Nielsen reports the average consumer uses 26 apps a month. This includes social media, entertainment and communication apps, and therefore, leaves only a handful of space for retail-specific apps. A universal app solution provides consumers with a single mobile-centric source for information from all participating retailers, eliminating the need for numerous downloads that require more memory and often leave consumers’ battery life on low.

Frequency Strength and Radius

The benefit of a beacon’s ability to deliver highly-targeted, relevant information to the consumer’s mobile device as they walk the store is unparalleled. However, retailers must closely monitor the frequency strength and radius settings of each device.

Customers pinged with alerts that do not relate to their buying needs can become easily annoyed by the technology, causing them to ignore notifications and undermining the retailer’s marketing efforts. If shoppers in the toothpaste aisle are constantly receiving sales alerts for the shoe department, then the beacon’s radius might be too wide and should be reduced to the confines of the specific department it pertains to. Investing the time to fully understand each beacon’s individual frequency strength and radius is crucial to ensuring each strategically placed device is primed to target the correct shoppers.

Power Setting

A list of each device’s location throughout the store may seem minor; however, it can prove to be critical for retailers. While beacons can be conveniently updated to send out the latest information remotely, the device itself must be monitored to ensure the battery still has power. The battery life of each beacon can be short-lived depending on how often it is distributing information.

Unfortunately, beacons are not smart devices and cannot signal when their power is running low. Therefore, without regular check-ups, a retailer could go days or weeks with dead beacons that are not pinging customers, potentially resulting in lost revenue. This can be detrimental to retails relying on battery-powered beacon technology for their entire in-store shopping engagement.

To avoid the cost of replacing lost beacons or losing the opportunity to communicate with browsing buyers, retailers can look to AC-powered beacons that can be plugged into wall outlets, allowing the devices to remain fully charged with a longer life-cycle.

Limited Security Concerns

With security and privacy a top issue amongst consumers, there are some concerns in the retail space that beacons can be hijacked, such as altering the information or message the beacon delivers to a consumer’s device. For example, instead of directing a consumer to a retailer’s mobile commerce site, it instead sends them to a competitor’s page or a site containing a virus.

However, this threat is highly unlikely because in order to fully take over a retailer’s beacon campaign, the hijacker would have to locate every device in the store and modify their internal data values in order to rework the messages delivered. Implementing authentication credentials in the administrative tools that can connect and modify the beacons should be considered; however, security concerns should not be a red flag for retailers interested in exploring beacon technology.

Beacons are ideal for large store displays, at the entrance and exits of a store or even through different departments. They can become that personal greeter to welcome store visitors, assist them in beginning the path to purchase and thank them for their visit upon exit. Through these friendly reminders, retailers can ensure consumers have the best deals and latest store information on the products the consumers are most interested in and shopping for all via their mobile device. With more retailers exploring the effectiveness of delivering hyper-local content directly to consumers, beacon technology is positioned to be a driving force for the retail industry and should be considered as a key component of future in-store marketing.

Previously published on Loyalty 360.