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L2’s latest study examines the efforts of five retailers – Target, Macy’s, Sephora, Duane Reade, Lord & Taylor – in beacon technology. Sephora, always a leader in adopting and experimenting with new technologies, began testing beacons in its Innovation Lab in San Francisco (launched in 2015). However, even for the tech-savvy beauty retailer particularly adept at combining in-store and online shopping, beacons have presented challenges. Reaching shoppers is a problem, as those who walk in must have downloaded the Sephora app and have Bluetooth turned on. Furthermore, the technology has not caught up with the pace of shoppers. Many shoppers walk too fast or keep phones in their bags, both which prevent beacons being triggered and sending targeted offers.

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But other retailers’ efforts have not been glitch-free, and in some cases have failed to get off the ground. Lord & Taylor, for example, announced it would expand beacons to all of its stores after a three-month trial with partners Swirl and SnipSnap (a coupon app). Customers within 500 meters of a store would receive mystery coupons that would reveal their value once they went inside. Once consumers entered the store, they would receive more specific offers based on their shopping behavior. From a consumer perspective, however, performance was poor. Even phones with all three apps – Swirl, Lord & Taylor, and SnipSnap – downloaded and activated did not receive notifications in the vicinity of stores during the study period. A Swirl representative told L2 that the Lord & Taylor and Swirl partnership no longer use those three apps, and is working with the RetailMeNot app instead.

As sending personalized text notifications to consumers near stores has been problematic, several retailers have overcome that barrier by focusing on data collection. Walgreens, for example, implemented beacons in 10 of its New York City-based Duane Reade locations. While push notifications did not appear to be active in L2 tests, the retailer is planning to integrate data from customer traffic in stores with information from loyalty programs and purchase history to improve its app.

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