Beacons are often touted as the next evolution of retail marketing for in-store merchants, but there’s been a conspicuous lack of observable progress among mainstream brands, as well as a troubling lack of supporting interest from shoppers. For an industry that’s become adjusted to fast-moving and extensively disruptive tech innovations, the sense of torpor around beacons can sometimes make it seem like a failed strategy that desperate retailers are still hanging their hats on.
Or could it simply be an incorrect perception about how new tech emerges into a wider market that is depressing opinions on beacons’ potential?
Wired explained this new dynamic in 2014, where the model of the bell curve does not quite apply to the modern landscape of tech innovations. Under that schema, the market adopts new innovations at a gradual increase and a just-as-gentle decline. Notably, this schema means that there is plenty of time to identify the signals of a soon-to-be-successful app, service or new technology.
However, that development and adoption model may be a relic of times gone by. Some of the most disruptive startups in recent years have bucked the trend. After varying periods of consumers feeling them out, companies like Uber, Snapchat and Airbnb all skyrocketed to fame and fortune. There was no slow climb.
Could this be the future of beacons in 2016? It is almost impossible to say, but there are some promising signs that point to a growing groundswell of support — or, at least, a reduction in anti-beacon sentiment. In its 2015 Global Shopper Study, Zebra Technologies explained that only 4 percent of retailers are sticking to their guns and refusing to incorporate IoT technology into their operations. While 96 percent of the field in support does not guarantee rapid adoption and implementation, it is certainly better than the alternative.
In a column for EE Times, Zebra Technologies Director of Marketing Bayo Onigbanjo explained that IoT made its biggest leap forward with business-facing entities in 2015. Although, it is not just brands that need to get on board with beacons if they’re going to work in retail environments.
Fortunately, it appears as if consumers are also moving toward a more favorable position in regards to IoT technologies. Zebra’s Global Shopper Study also found a great deal of IoT buy-in from consumers. Nearly 80 percent of 2,000 consumers from countries like the U.S., France, the U.K. and China said they would be willing to share information with retailers if it improved their shopping experiences. Moreover, about 50 percent said that retailers that embrace emerging technologies, like location-based beacon marketing, are offering more effective in-store research and purchasing processes.
Nick D’Alessio, global retail practice leader at Zebra Technologies, explained that customers are waiting with baited breath for retailers to take the next step in IoT-enabled in-store experiences.
“As online and mobile shopping become more prevalent and accepted worldwide, the importance of the customer experience remains high, as noted by the majority of respondents who would buy more merchandise from retailers they believe provide better customer service,” D’Alessio said. “Mobile technology helps provide real-time visibility of product availability, flexible delivery and payment options, freeing retailers to focus on the shopper experience and delivering personalized service to customers.”
It might be hard to find more than a handful of retail pundits who hang their hats on 2016 being the year when beacons finally break out, but considering how innovations propagate in today’s modern market — and the plurality of support for the tech from both retailers and consumers — it is hard to feel anything but optimistic for beacons and location-based marketing entering the new year.