Beacons Don’t Work & Other Stupid Conclusions

I was reading an article recently entitled “Beacons Are Dead” which was, as you might expect from the title, declaring that the relatively new technology of retail beacons was already dead. The premise of the piece is that beacons would be great “if the did something customers really wanted”. He goes on to say that beacons just don’t work with “customers current shopping habits”.

This kind of article drives me insane. It is so unbelievably short-sited. Let me try to simplify if I may… beacons won’t work because (a) they take work for retailers to implement and maintain and (b) because people don’t know how to use them. Ok, where do I begin on this?

I completely understand that implementing and  maintaining beacons would represent significant work for retailers. But where I differ in my view is that the return on that investment could be HUGE and competition crushing. Let’s take Target as an example. For those of you not familiar, Target has an app called Cartwheel where they have lots of different offers for items in their stores that shoppers can add to their personal Cartwheel app and use at checkout. I find the process to be pretty cumbersome, and I am a digitally oriented person. First you have to look for the offers either before you go to the store or while you’re in the store. Then, you have to add them to your list in the app. Then you have to scan the barcode from the app during the checkout process. This is made even more confusing if you use the self-checkout where it appears that the offers are not being applied because they don’t appear until you are literally paying.

How could Target use beacons to make a better customer experience? Let me suggest this – use beacons around the store that are part of the Cartwheel program. Let a customer, like me, click on something while in an aisle to see if there are any current offers for anything I’m currently looking at. If there is, I can click and add to the savings I want to use on that visit. Boom.

If you have any super special offers, you could push them to customers in the store, though I would suggest doing that in a very judicious manner so people don’t get annoyed and want to turn off your app. To argue that this is not even worth trying because people don’t shop this way to me, misses the point. I would LOVE to shop this way, but no one does it so I can’t – not the other way around.

I’m sure the same argument was made at one point for using all kinds of technologies and for many of them, those who did not adapt to them found themselves scrambling to catch up. Think of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, and their considerable lag in the online space as just one example.

I feel like this is the same argument that gets made for tablets being poor performers when it comes to online shopping. I seriously wonder (and wrote a piece about it) if this isn’t really just another chicken and egg scenario. Are tablet sales poorer because people don’t want or like to shop on their tablets or are tablet sales poorer because shopping experiences on tablets largely suck? It is a question worth exploring. I have tried again this year to do holiday shopping from my tablet and regularly give up and head to my laptop. Please retailers – make your sites work well on tablets. I don’t think you’ll be sorry with the results of those efforts!

Add to the list one all PPC pros have heard at one time or another “paid search does not work” – like ever, under any circumstances because it didn’t work in one specific set of circumstances. To fall into this kind of thinking is dangerous for your organization. Great businesses don’t just tread the same territory everyone else does, they venture into uncharted, untested and unknown territories to find new avenues to reach customers and turn them into buyers.

I’m not suggesting that every technology or every idea is right for every organization. Certainly that is not true. But to boldly declare that something can’t work or will never work because no one has really made it work yet seems kind of ridiculous to me. But what businesses really, really need to wrap their heads around is the idea that people want to use their technology to improve their shopping experience. Whether this means having special offers or sales shown to them in stores or having a kick-ass shopping experience on all devices or using email in a more personalized way, trust me – your customers want you to do it all better!

As always, love to hear your thoughts – sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).

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