I've seen an increasing number of marketers excited about the marketing possibilities of beacons. And rightly so: Beacons expand mobile marketing and create new ways to connect with customers.
Most marketers focus on beacons' ability to send push notifications to customers. And beacons are very good at, for instance, sending ads or information about sales to customers as they move through certain predetermined locations in a store.
But beacons can do more than that. They can also gather information about your customers and their purchasing process. All it takes is customers installing your beacon app, and you're ready to go.
Learning About Customers
Traditional store analytics involve tracking "footfall." In the analogue days, this involved setting an employee near a store's entrance. They'd track how many people walked past the store and how many people entered.
Keeping an accurate count over the course of a day required an employee's full attention. And they couldn't necessarily collect reliable data about how many people returned to the same store.
But beacons make this easy. With beacon analytics, marketers can understand how many of the beacon app's users return to a store, how many are new customers and what a store's outside potential is (the number of beacon app users who walk past but don't go inside). If your store has multiple locations, marketers can collect data about customer loyalty between stores. And marketers can change a single element about the store's display or facade and receive nearly instantaneous feedback via analytics. It's a marketer's dream.
Tracking the Journey
While the traditional footfall tally gave marketers information about how many people entered a store, stores typically didn't gather data about which departments received the most visits or how many times a given customer walked past a certain display. Keeping this tally via traditional means was just too resource-intensive.
But beacon analytics replace human counters and make it easy to understand a store's footfall patterns in a more useful way. Marketers can gather information not just about how many people walk through a store, but about customer paths, too: where they go first, the route they take and how long they stay in each place. "Heat maps" are a means to aggregate these data across many customers and are an easy way to visualize which areas of your store are the most popular.
With this well-honed locational info, marketers and store owners can figure out how best to lay out their stores. This doesn't necessarily mean making their route more efficient (unless, of course, the route to a given section is so roundabout that it's keeping customers away!). It may also mean putting sections that create impulse buying in heavily traveled areas: This way, marketers can upsell without even having a human salesperson present.
Which parts of a store bring customers in? Which displays do customers stay by the most or return to? Most shopkeepers probably have some intuitions about this. But until beacons entered common use, it's been difficult to determine the answers to these questions empirically.
Just like how marketers can change a store's street-facing display and see how that changes engagement, they can change individual displays within the store. Over time, they can determine which ways of displaying a product customers react to best: which ones they're more likely to return to over the course of their visit or stay in front of longer. When coupled with aggregated sales data from across all customers' purchases, this can be a powerful tool for understanding exactly what drives customers.
Beacons give marketers a powerful window into customers' behavior. With this information, they can experiment with store layout and display. Over time, this improves customers' experience, and increases both sales and customer loyalty. If marketers believe beacons are simply for sending push notifications to their customers, they're not understanding the true potential of this powerful tool!