Beacon Technology for Premium Brands?

Is the concept of Beacon technology and proximity marketing right for the world of premium brands?

Whether we like it or not all customers, lower end, middle market, premium or the luxury market are constantly looking at their mobile phones. The mobile phone is the most important touchpoint for everyone.

So even though we want the customer to be 100% committed to experiencing the beautiful 3D retail space that we have created for them, we have to accept that they will be entering this wonderful space with their mobile phone in their hand.

As premium retailers and designers of premium retail spaces we have to connect our customer and their ‘mobile phone’ with the bricks and mortar store.

This is where beacons come in. They are a brilliantly simple way to communicate with customers through their mobile.

In the USA large brands seem to be really at it. Retailers such as Walmart are embracing beacon technology to offer their customers discounts and offers throughout the stores. More than 1million beacons are expected to be installed in US retail stores alone this year.

Large retailers in the USA are all about the sale, the offer, the discount so I can see how this works really well in a high volume, offer-focused store. Is it possible to use beacon technology to create a luxury experience?

Premium brands have started working with beacon technology
The Regent Street’s Estates have created a Regent Street app. 90% of the retailers who have shops on Regent Street have taken part and deployed beacons in their Regent Street store so that they can push exclusive and personalised marketing messages to their customers. The app that connects all of these brands is called The Mile of Style. The app offers competitions, secret invitations and latest news. The app also allows shoppers to input their preferences whilst maintaining their anonymity. The brands can then build a detailed profile of the shoppers who redeem online special offers, respond to mobile advertising, and eventually enter the physical stores. Designwise it’s ok but it doesn’t feel like a beautiful designed premium app to me. It feels like an app that has been produced by a technology company.

Macys in New York and San Francisco had massive success trialling beacons and have now expanded the programme to all stores across the USA installing more than 4,000 beacons! They have experimented with seasonal campaigns, using a beacon-triggered mobile app game at is 700 stores. The seasonal Thanksgiving notifications encouraged customers to participate in an engaging digital experience with a chance to win $1million Macy’s gift codes and other prizes.

Neiman Marcus have also gone for it, focussing on promoting in-store events such as trunk shows, guest designers, book signings and so on. The notifications would give out the time of the event and directions to the event happening on the day when a consumer is present at the store.

Barneys new Chelsea, NY store seems to have it all and got the balance right. The store offers a unique and timeless luxury shopping experience, with an emphasis on bringing digital aspects into the store with state-of-the-art technology. They are using the Relevance Cloud by Rich Relevance to connect online and offline behaviours and preferences to help sales associates better serve their clients via a customer clienteling app.  Using the technology, the retailer can send personalised recommendations sourced from ‘The Window’, Barneys’ editorial site, to consumers’ smartphones

”We want the customer to feel as though anything is possible when they walk into the store. With the seamless integration of technology, our incredible staff, and a deep appreciation of our customer, we really do feel that everything is possible.” Barneys Vice President of Digital, Matthew Woolsey

The key to success with beacon technology
It looks like beacons are here to stay and premium brands are embracing the technology. The key to their success with premium retailers is:

  1. Ensure the app is marketed with a strong campaign and therefore downloaded
  2. Ensure customers have their bluetooth activated through instore communication
  3. Ensure the way you engage with the customer is relevant and not simply offer-based
  4. Ensure the app is beautifully designed and on brand, rather than just a basic skin of a generic piece of technology

Beacons and apps can be amazing and can offer extraordinary personal benefits and offer the retailer extraordinary data and insights. Think money can’t buy experiences, partner offers with other retailers and truly personal content that keeps the customer engaged and loyal.