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Mobile has changed the way we shop. It’s helped to drive online shopping and it’s altered the relationship – and the power – between retailers and their customers. But, what about its effect on traditional bricks and mortar stores? Is mobile the final nail in the coffin of high street retailers – or is it an untapped opportunity?

For some retailers, the sight of a customer on their smartphone in their store fills them with dread. They could be checking out competitors’ offers and prices – and may be about to walk. While this is, of course, very true – and very likely in the case of savvy-shopping Millennials who love sniffing out the best deals – it doesn’t have to spell disaster for retailers. Mobile can bring them big benefits too.

At the heart of an in-store mobile solution is a beacon. It’s a location-based technology that uses Bluetooth to communicate with (enabled) mobile devices. Unlike GPS technology, beacon technology is incredibly accurate – it can pinpoint exactly where a customer is in the store. That opens up an amazing opportunity to send personal, relevant, timely SMS communications to the customer. Whether that’s a special offer for the product they’re contemplating, further information about it, a link to customer reviews – or even a coupon to reward their continued loyalty. Not only can this highly-targeted, real-time marketing help increase revenue, it can also help to build relationships between retailers and their customers and increase loyalty. The customer wins and so too does the retailer.

Beacons aren’t just useful for driving in-the-moment customer offers. They can also be used behind the scenes to build up valuable intelligence. They can understand a shopper’s journey around the store and gather data about their behavior. So, retailers can see where people go in the shop, which route they take, which areas have the longest dwell time, and so on. And, with that information, they can adjust their merchandising to maximize their profits.

The benefits of beacons are clear. So, what’s standing in retailers’ way? If it’s a belief that consumers aren’t receptive to such technologies or that in-store mobile usage will open them up to more competition, research should reassure them. According to eDigitalResearch, almost half of smartphone owners would accept retailers sending messages to their smartphone. And, according to Deloitte Digital’s report ‘The New Digital Divide’, digital interactions influence 36 cents of every dollar spent in-store. That amounts to over $1.1 trillion annually (source) and it’s predicted to grow. So, embrace the opportunity – don’t ignore it.

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