The idea of Bluetooth beacon technology is fairly simple and Apple is emerging as the ”top dog” as the beacon-wars are heating up. PayPal (PayPal Beacon: https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/beacon ) and Qualcomm (Gimbal: http://www.gimbal.com/) are gearing up to challenge Apple with beacon hardware of their own. And retailers like Target (Cart Wheel) and smaller vendors like Estimote, Swirl, and GPShopper are entering the mix with beacon management and consulting on top of hardware or software platforms.
A beacon is a small device (for instance Apple’s ibeacon is almost as large as an iPhone 4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBeacon and PayPal’s beacon device is even smaller – about the size of a thumb https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/beacon) installed on a wall, countertop or ceiling of a retail store. There could be one or many of them installed. The beacons send out information to all the Bluetooth receivers around them, typically to smartphones of passersby with the required app installed . The short, little beacon messages that your phone gets, tells your phone to go to the web and download content that’s related to where you are or what you’re doing. In the best case, this information will be very focused on the immediate area where you’re standing, or it could be extended to relate to the entire store.
Use of beacons:
Beacons reach out to consumers’ devices e.g. on the sidewalk, to invite the customer to come into the store based on its products, special offers, the store’s customer base, or consumer’s buying behavior.
A beacon just inside the door can trigger a reward for the person entering the store, tailored to the customer’s buying history, such as whether he or she is a new or returning customer. And the beacon could also set up a preapproved digital payment method for whatever the customer may want to buy.
As the customer wanders around the store, the goods advertize themselves and offer additional information about themselves on the customer’s device simply by proximity to the particular product. That information can be powerfully tailored to the customer.
Ideally, and thanks to the beacon, the customer doesn’t have to join the waiting queue at the checkout. And or no more looking for a cashier or even an employee with a phone or tablet to check out. The customer is free to leave the store with the product. Remember, the customer agreed or already set up his or her preferred payment back on the beacon as he or she entered the store..
Consumer adoption of mobile is growing at an exponential rate
Based on various research studies, it’s very clear that the use of mobile devices set the stage for the beacon. Rapidly growing numbers of consumers are using a store locator service on their mobile device. And, as many of us know from personal experience, consumers often use their mobile device to check prices and additional product information or use comparison tools in stores. I am not sure whether you do it, but my wife and I keep our coupons, discount codes, and our shopping list in the cloud and we use our personal device as an interactive shopping list. Finally I’d like to point out that the number of consumers who use mobile payment on their phone in some form or another is rising from year to year. For an informative report on US consumer’s mobile shopping habits, I highly recommend Nielsen’s article Shopping Lists: How Mobile Helps Consumers Tick All The Boxes.
From my perspective it would be the worst case if consumers would need an app for each store – ideally the technology would be built into the OS of the device or be part of an overlapping eCommerce platform such as Hybris and cloud technology such as SAP HANA.
In this context these articles might be interesting for one or two: