By connecting small, inconspicuous Bluetooth wireless transmitters on walls, shelves, doorways, and at check-out, retailers of all types can transform stores into platforms for tracking consumer behaviors and/or delivering relevant content and offers. Often, though, beacons go undetected, rendering the experience for the consumer seemingly unchanged, as it always was, plus a few more phone notifications…
Only, it’s not the same experience. The difference is one about which brands must be transparent. Why? Beacons allow retailers to sense patterns more effectively than ever before. However, when brands are able to associate these patterns with individuals, beacons aren’t just cause for omni-channel integration, but of privacy and ethical implications as well.
While the extent to which brands can message individuals based on their personal data varies (based on integrations, mobile opt-in, who is doing the messaging and whether or not the consumer has that app… at all, never mind open in-store…), the reality is this level of hyper-personalized targeting feels different to consumers ‘offline’ than it does online, where the digital connections are inherent. Herein lies an opportunity and risk for brands.
Brands must leverage beacons in ways that enhance customer experience, not detract from it with pushy ads, creepily sourced offers, or any other marketing touch that leaves shoppers feeling annoyed, distrusting, or even violated. Each time a beacon pings a customer, the brand risks encroaching on that customer’s personal space.
Not only is there an imperative for brands to exercise sensitivity and relevance when messaging, but the imperative extends both before and after the engagement as well—this is the heightened role of context in ‘offline’ digital engagement. To exercise sensitivity and transparency, as well as to maximize the investment of a beacon implementation, marketers must ask and be able to answer:
These questions are merely a starting point, and will vary by brand, industry, and consumer demographics. What these questions should illustrate is the level of consideration marketers must employ when developing beacon programs. Even when programs are more passive (for listening or tracking only), it is still critical consumers understand how their presence and data (particularly personal data such as location) are supporting brand agendas.
Most importantly, brands must remember that to enjoy the benefits of digital tracking and personalized content deployment they have come to appreciate online, transferring these to the real world requires they exercise heightened sensitivity and mindfulness of the experience, regardless of how invisible beacons may seem.
To Enhance Relationships, Brands Must Translate Value and Foster Trust
The potential for beacons expands far beyond tracking and measurement, (to real-time marketing, content activations, personalized offerings, etc.). But such potential will never bear its fruits in reality unless rolled into the larger context of the brand’s customer strategy, both digital and in-store. When integrated strategically, beacons can help enhance customer-brand relationships, but brands must clearly translate the value to customers, and not just in the form of coupons.
In an increasingly connected world—one where culturally sensitivities and concerns around privacy, surveillance, and nefarious use of data are widespread, and justified— brands must exercise more caution and transparency to foster trust, After all, all relationships are founded on value and trust, consumer-brand relationships being no exception.
Be sure to check out all three parts of this three part series.
Image sources: Internet Retailer, cdn2.itpro.co.uk