The future of in-store retailing?

What if retailers could do in-store what they do online?  I’m talking about tracking your movements around the store and recording your behavioural and purchasing habits to learn more about you.  Then use that information to provide a better or more personalised service to you or even to market to you directly while in store the way they can do while you are online?   Well they can and already are.

Shoe discount

More and more retailers are now making use of beacons, small wireless devices which which only only cost a few dollars each, to connect with customers mobile phones using the phones’ bluetooth and a store app.  The beacons can be used to wake up a store app on customers phones which are nearby and connect with them.  It identifies the customer from the account details they used to set up the app.  This then provides the store real time access to the data in the company’s CRM system including purchasing history and preferences. This can allow the store to market to and interact with the customer online while they are in the store and to tailor their in-store service or approach to the customer.

Stores have been able to track customer movements around stores previously but connecting the movement with information about the individual user now makes this data so much more meaningful and useful for the store.  The beacons can also be helpful in managing the store in real time, for example managing staff deployment – how many customers are in the store and where they are in the store, are there a lot of customers waiting at the check outs. The tracking data can also be used to understand the foot traffic in and around the store; do people linger outside deciding to come in or do they walk right in, are displays effective, and with which demographics.   This helps the store to figure out what works.

Many stores are using the technology to send push notifications or other forms of digital marketing .  It can also be used to deliver services to customers.   Target in the US is using beacons and an app on customers phones to send push notification to them.  Apps can also provide a better service to customers.  A simple example is the Target app which can re-sort the customer’s shopping list as they move around the store, a bit like the way car navigation devices re plan the route as you go along.  In other stores customers can use store apps and beacon technology to call a staff member to them for assistance.

Here is how beacons work:

Research has shown that consumers are engaging with beacon technology and that it is increasing sales.


The application of this technology will have its limitations in most stores though. For starters, do you keep bluetooth turned on all the time or like me is it permanently off to save the battery?  How likely are we to install store apps, especially if the push notifications we get are mostly the equivalent of junk mail?

Beacons are one more aspect of omni-channel presence which is increasingly becoming a must have for retailers who must cater to the changing shopping habits of their customers.


To make the most of the marketing opportunity the retailers need to do more than add more channels for the consumers to engage with.  They must develop a true omni-channel approach, where each channel has the same look and feel and re-enforce the same marketing messages regardless of which channel and device is used, as opposed to just providing more channels – a multi-channel approach – which does provide their customers more channels but doesn’t provide the same seamless experience and strength in the marketing message.   The omni-channel approach gives companies a competitive advantage, increasing their client retention rates and customer lifetime value at the expense of companies without it.

Nieman Marcus has looked very closely at how their customers like to shop and has taken the application of available technology much further to seamlessly integrate their customers’ in-store experience with their online usage.  They can interact with the consumer online while they are in the store and have revolutionised their personalised service delivery.  Customer can use the app to alert the store of needs and preferences and they can even use the app to pre arrange services.  The beacon alerts the customer’s personal store assistant as soon as they have entered the store.  The store assistant receives information about the customer in real time and is even able to identify the customer using a picture.  Neiman Marcus’ personalised service builds a deeper relationship with its customers and increases sales.  The following video features Neiman Marcus’s app and their incredible level of customer service.

How do you shop, do you use more than one channel when you shop?  Are you likely to install store apps on your phone which can connect with beacon devices or would you have to be convinced there was some benefit to to you?  Perhaps you might think this is all a bit intrusive or be concerned about your privacy?



The future of in-store retailing?

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