Beacons and Retail Shopping

Beacon messages in moderation can boost engagement, but overdoing it can be disastrous.

Beacons are an emerging technology that seem very promising for retailers going forward. But new research indicates that an over-saturation of beacon push messages can actually be more harmful than helpful when it comes to shopper engagement.

A quick overview of beacons

Beacons are small and simple proximity devices that constantly emit a signal, which can subsequently be discovered by nearby smartphones or tablets. Relatively inexpensive and long-lasting due to their low energy requirements, more and more retailers have been adopting the technology and experimenting with various applications. A number of common applications have been developed, with a few of the most common including push notifications and check-ins when customers are in different areas of a store. Naturally, as a new technology, the possibilities are exciting, but recent research has thrown up some warning flags to any retailers who are using beacon technology.

Too many push notifications are annoying

The beacon platform company inMarket has apparently found out that overdoing push notifications from beacons doesn’t exactly provide much benefit to the customer. In fact, customers seem to strongly dislike receiving too many notification messages from beacons. So much so, that inMarket saw a 313% decline in shopping application use by customers who received more than one beacon notification in a single location. And logically, that figure makes sense. An occasional message while shopping in-store — while obviously serving marketing purposes of the retailer — can actually be beneficial for the customer’s shopping experience, and the customer installed the app in the first place, so they were probably looking for a little bit of information. But not many people would want their phones to be lit up by notifications while shopping. At best, it turns into a case of information overload, and at worst, it becomes an extremely annoying distraction. That’s probably why inMarket also found out that too many messages — or messages that weren’t relevant — actually caused users to simply uninstall the shopping app.

Tread lightly with your beacons

Hopefully you understand the danger of beacons at this point. But, just because there’s a risk, that doesn’t mean you should avoid them altogether. Utilized properly, they can actually be quite beneficial, as inMarket also found that 68% of shoppers find in-store reminders from shopping apps more useful than out-of-store reminders. They also discovered that a shopper who receives a branded message in the store is 7.5 times more likely to seek out the product than a shopper who doesn’t receive the message.
As we mentioned earlier, there are also other applications of beacons, and probably many applications that have yet to be innovated, so only time will tell the exact extent of the usefulness of beacons for retailers and brands. Just be careful to not overdo it, as beacons aren’t a magic bullet for customer engagement, unless you’re trying to kill it.

Adam Witbeck
Adam Witbeck
Adam's background includes ten years of technical sales experience. For some reason, he also happens to be obsessed with customer satisfaction and rapid response time. Feel free to email him with any questions.