Beacons and GPS: Each Has a Place Connecting to the Customer
Retailers looking to personalize offerings can combine a GPS solution with a beacon geolocation technology.
GPS is used to determine location, and when real-time data is unneeded. It’s more of a geo-targeting solution, and a good fit for when a retailer is interested in marketing toward a group of potential customers in a certain area, rather than at a specific time.
For instances in which up-to-the-minute information is required, geofencing provides real-time information, and is done with GPS or beacons. Beacons may be preferred over GPS for three reasons: (1) accuracy, (2) battery life, (3) privacy.
Privacy is the most important. For retailers using GPS, customers must agree to a “contract” that stipulates the brand can track the user at all times. That can be a tough sell. With beacons, the contract is less intrusive: “We will know if you visit our stores to provide you a better service, but we won’t track you beyond the confines of the store.”
For example, a customer living in a certain ZIP code might receive promotions for merchandise featuring a local high school football team using geo-location, but a shopper walking by the store would be offered a promotion using beacon technology.
And those two “types” really ought to receive different messaging, even though it may be for the same retailer. For instance, through beacons a restaurant learns that Roberta always visits the same location of a chain restaurant while Jeff visits 10 branches of the same restaurant in the span of a month, we can message Roberta with “your local restaurant now serves _____” while Jeff might receive “On the road again? Treat yourself to a free ______”
Of course, such precise messaging requires careful analytics: Only the combination of beacon information and the customer profile, which is created over time, should trigger engagements. And those messages can be both informational (“New Tom’s arriving in shoe department this afternoon!”) and cost-conscious (“20% off Laura Ashley sheet sets in Housewares now!”). Either way, the communications must make people feel as though their business is valued. Over time, retailers will learn which customer needs what amount of “encouragement” to win their business.