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Beacons: The next step toward customer personalization?

Retailers are now using apps to send real-time offers and content to shoppers

Cookies revolutionized the online shopping experience by providing retailers with the means to identify, store and act on the behaviour of their customers – now that same set of capabilities may become a reality for bricks and mortar grocers.

Recently, a number of high-profile retailers have installed hardware in their stores designed to trigger apps to send offers and content to shoppers in real-time.

Most notably, Apple is now using small Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) beacons in all of its stores with the ability to sense the location of a mobile device from up to 100 feet away, but precisely enough to measure the distance to the inch.

While BLE systems are also being developed by several others to primarily deliver notifications and even process payments, grocers could conceivably use signals delivered to apps for another purpose: to connect in-store shopper behaviour to their larger customer profiles.

Loyalty cards and apps have connected purchases to customers like this for years, but these signals have the potential to add considerable non-purchase behavior to grocers’ data sets.

Opted-in shoppers would begin clueing grocers into their precise shopping behavior just as they do for online retailers.

Shoppers would reveal when they visited, what categories they browsed, where they lingered and even if they decided not to buy anything at all.

With marketing messages usually coming outside the store environment (weekly sales, loyalty offers, contests and promotions), this in-store data would undoubtedly help grocers improve their level of personalization.

Offers would become considerably more informed and relevant across all channels – a sore spot the industry continues to solve for today through largely purchase-driven behavior.

The possible applications of this data also extend beyond advertising; category managers could gauge unmet demand for out-of-stock SKUs or the appeal of category assortments to certain segments.

Store planners would also gain richer insight into the paths different shopper segments take through their aisles.

There’s no doubt we’ll see hurdles to both shopper adoption and operationalizing this level of data integration (Apple isn’t even collecting data using their iBeacons yet), but the fact remains that this new stream of data holds enormous potential to enrich grocers understanding of and service to the customers.

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