Monday, January 05, 2015

Bookshop Beacons Across The UK?

Forrester Research claim consumers are using tablets in their living rooms (67%), bedrooms (60%) and even their kitchens (42%), but smartphones are used more on the go, including in the car (68%) and of course, in retail stores (68%). This presents smartphones with a real opportunities to use new beacon technology to give consumers access to a mass of information, such as prices and locations whilst they are in the street, store and on the move.
Imagine walking down your High Street and you receive a message telling you the butcher you are about to pass has a special 3 for 2 joint offer today. Next you pass a clothes shop that immediately informs you that you could get a personal offer today on a similar shirt to that you bought last month. Then you pass a bookstore that informs you that your favourite author’s latest title is just in and is on special offer to you!  Then you’re in a department store and approach a display which recognises you and tells you about what is on offer and send you a special voucher. Maybe you are at a bus stops, or looking at street adverts, or in a tube station and are directed towards a specific shop before you even go anywhere near it.
Already some supermarkets and department stores are trailing this new beacon technology. UK Department store House of Fraser is trailing beacon-equipped mannequins in its Aberdeen store. Aloft Hotels are testing beacon technology, which will allow customers to unlock hotel doors after they check in and potentially remove the whole check-in process. The Crown Estate, which owns Regent Street, which includes retailers such as Hamleys, Longchamp, Burberry, Banana Republic, Hugo Boss and Anthropologie, will introduce the new smartphone application that takes advantage of the technology to deliver discounts, new-product promotions and other alerts to the smartphones of shoppers as they walk past stores and restaurants. Over 100 stores in Regent Street have already been fitted with the technology. UK retailer Waitrose is trailing the technology in their Swindon store. Finally, under pressure supermarket Tesco is aiming to use the technology improve customer service and personalization offering alerts on click-and-collect orders and enabling consumers to pinpoint the location of products on their shopping lists.
Beacons are a low-cost, micro location based technology, which utilises Bluetooth technology to communicate between smartphone apps and beacons. The technology can also provide retailers with invaluable data about their customers’ shopping habits as well as the activity of their staff. This information can improve store layouts, flow as well as promote products and offers. The Beacon technology appears now poised to surpass and deliver what many thought would be achieved via near field communication (NFC) technology.
However, before we all run out to install beacons, retailers need customers who want to use them and trust that their personal information is secure. The customers have to first download and install a smartphone app and there is the issue of how many apps a consumer needs. While customers may be happy to download an app for a couple of retailers, they might not want to download an app for every shop they visit. This may be overcome by retailers integrating their technology with common popular third-party shopping apps such as PayPal or PriceChecker.

So will we see a UK Bookseller Association app and beacons switched on for business in independent and BA member shops across the UK? This would be a novel way to promote the local book store and its titles and offers. Not as independents but as part of a national book group and even offer opportunities to further integrate other customer services. They could even sell ad space to publishers and authors to contribute towards it. However it is more likely that we shall see large stores such as WHS, Waterstones, The Works adopt the technology whilst the independents sit on their hands or look around for a technology partner to do it for them. 

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