Beacons Boost Holiday Shopping, Study Shows

About 60 percent of consumers say they appreciate the beacon experience, according to Swirl.

The advent of beacons may not yet be fully upon us — with many brick-and-mortar retailers still testing out the technology — but it’s picking up pace, as department store chains such as Macy’s and Target have expanded their respective adoption of the micro-targeting devices over the past few months.

Beacon marketing platform provider Swirl has conducted research to measure consumer engagement. The Boston-based company, which has its beacon technology available in a number of retail stores including Lord & Taylor, Urban Outfitters, Alex & Ani, Kenneth Cole, and Timberland, released new data showing that 60 percent of shoppers are receptive to beacon-triggered content, with 30 percent actually making beacon-inspired buys. Sixty-one percent of consumers say they’d do more of their holiday shopping in locations that offered mobile content while they’re in the store.

  Rebecca Schuette, director of marketing at Swirl

Rebecca Schuette, director of marketing at Swirl

Swirl’s research tapped a couple of sources, says Rebecca Schuette, director of marketing at Swirl. The company derived its analysis directly from the Swirl mobile platform, where it has “tens of thousands of interactions with beacon marketing” stored. Swirl also conducted shopper surveys about beacon interactions via a few of the retailers with which it partners, Schuette says.

A Personal Shopper In Hand

Retailers have been using beacons largely to offer discounts and other types of in-store rewards, which is part of why the engagement rate is so high, says Schuette, but that’s not the only reason.

“A lot of [the success of beacons] has to do with their location-based nature,” Schuette says. “It’s about getting that right message to the right shopper at the right time. When you can communicate with somebody when they’re in that shopping mindset in that store — it’s the best time to reach out.”

One thing that came out “loud and clear” in Swirl’s survey results, Schuette says, is how much consumers value the exclusive content that can be triggered by beacons.

“We have shoppers saying that they feel like they have a personal shopper right in their pocket,” Schuette says. “If that’s what the retailers can offer, then that really does enhance one’s shopping experience, and it’s not just about discounting; it’s about the entire experience in the retail establishment.”

Please Do Disturb

One of the issues holding retailers back from implementing beacons is that of consumer privacy. Businesses don’t want to “interrupt” or “bother” consumers with push notifications or other alerts via their smartphone while they’re browsing. Swirl’s survey results may prompt retailers to rethink these concerns.

“There’s a lot of reporting out there [suggesting] that shoppers may be concerned with privacy interactions or turned of notifications that come in through their cell phone,” Schuette says. “We found the opposite [is true] because this is opt-in technology.”

The key here of course is “opt-in.” Consumers have voluntarily signed up for a service. If they didn’t want it, they wouldn’t have enrolled in it, which means they’re not only accepting of push notifications and other beacon-triggered alerts, they’re expecting them.

Holiday Pioneers

The proof, Schuette suggests, is in the numbers. “Having 60 percent open rates is really unheard of in mobile marketing in general.”

Retailers using beacons, like Lord & Taylor, which last month rolled out Swirl’s beacon solution in all its locations, have an advantage this holiday season, as they’re catering to that 61 percent of consumers seeking a mobile in-store offer, Schuette says. As she sees it, these businesses are also pioneers in an industry that’s just beginning to take off.

“2014 was the year of lots of [beacon] pilots,” Schuette says. “Come 2015, you’ll see all the top 100 retailers have beacon marketing in place in their stores.”