backs beacons to play key role in retail sector

Bluetooth-enabled beacons will become integral to retail stores in the future, told Essential Retail.

"I believe in the future of beacons," said's commercial director, Annabel Kilner, "In the future that will be what showrooming is all about, so I would love it if someone came into and when they're looking at a piece of furniture, we can pop up and tell them about the designer. It would be so powerful."

But Eden Zoller, principal analyst at Ovum, said she is seeing retailers approach beacons with caution. Speaking at a Criteo roundtable event in London, she noted how retailers are finding it difficult to encourage customers to download the app which triggers the beacon device.

"And the problem about them is getting customers to keep the Bluetooth switched on," added Zoller. "When you're looking at technology like this and things like augmented reality, they have to be seamless and at the moment it can appear the opposite."

Ovum's latest report on the future of eCommerce, written in conjunction with Criteo, stated contextual location, driven by mobile, will be a key building block for retailers by 2026. Retailers who identify a shopper's location and deliver targeted, timely, contextually relevant information, advertising and marketing messages will provide them with a powerful, compelling proposition.

Beacons also have the ability to engage customers after they have left a physical store. The report used a customer looking for a new TV as an example, suggesting if they stand in an aisle for 15 minutes without making a purchase, it could be assumed there is significant interest in buying the product, so follow-up messages could be sent after they leave the store.

But the report pointed out that for hyperlocal commerce to succeed, consumer acceptance of the technology will be needed. Zoller also said retailers need to make sure they are not too intrusive with their messages.'s Kilner added: "Beacons are promotionally driven at the moment, and I think it's about changing it to relevancy and extra information. I really hate the cycle of retail promotions in the UK, I think we should use it in a way to educate the customer and provide them with an experience, which would add value."

But before can invest in beacon technology, Kilner said the retailer needs to create the content it wishes to share with its in-store customers.

She said: "I don't feel like we have our content in bitesize, and haven't created it for an experience, so we need to get everything working together to embrace that. But when we have it together, we would look to invest."

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