Many Consumers Are Open to Beacons

Retailers, not so much

Author: Alison McCarthy

February 22, 2017

Beacons have not yet been adopted by most US retailers, but consumers are open to the idea of retailers using in-store technologies to monitor their behavior in-store—if there’s something in it for them.

Beacons use Bluetooth technology to detect consumers’ smartphones and send them ads, coupons or other product information.

A November 2016 survey of US internet users from TimeTrade found that nearly half of respondents don’t mind being monitored by beacons or Wi-Fi technologies while shopping, as long as it benefits them in some way.

Another 17% said they don’t mind their behavior being tracked at all. Roughly one in three said they disliked the idea altogether.

While many consumers are open to the idea of beacons, they have not taken off with retailers in a major way, though many believe that they can be worthwhile.

In a September 2016 study from Retail Systems Research (RSR), for example, four in 10 US retailers said they saw the value of beacons for in-store communication, while about a third saw value in beacons for store perimeter marketing. However, most retailers have not implemented beacons for these purposes.

“Beacon technology has been hyped up since 2013, when Apple’s iBeacon became the first standardized BLE [Bluetooth low energy] beacon platform,” said eMarketer analyst Krista Garcia.

Beacons aren’t easy to implement, and a lot of retailers are still struggling with higher-level mobile strategies.

“But the fantasy of a shopper walking past a makeup counter and a personalized offer for lipstick being beamed to her phone is still not a reality. Beacons aren’t easy to implement, and a lot of retailers are still struggling with higher-level mobile strategies. It’s just not a priority for most,” she said.

Stefan Weitz, chief product and strategy officer at commerce technology and operations provider Radial, agreed that more experimental technologies such as beacons may not be a high priority compared with more practical technologies.

“Trends like beacons, augmented reality [AR] and smart mirrors are all interesting, but you have to be careful because they are [only] marginally valuable to the customer,” Weitz said. “Sometimes there are more systemic issues retailers have to tackle.”