Monthly Archives - December 2013

iBeacon technology

Retailers and iBeacon Technology

Engage customers with the revolutionary iBeacon experience

iBeacon technology

Apple recently launched its new iBeacon technology, which tracks customers’ in-store movements in order to offer information such as sales announcements, product specifications, order status, price comparisons and more.

iBeacons or “proximity transmitters” are a new micro-location technology for mobile devices that use the Bluetooth Low Energy standard (BLE or Bluetooth Smart) to help these devices determine a user’s location without GPS or cell tower triangulation. In addition, iBeacons accomplish this rich data exchange with a high degree of accuracy and low battery power consumption. Apple’s brand of iBeacon support, which is built into iOS 7, uses BLE along with Wi-Fi and push notifications to deliver content.

iBeacon’s true potential is to revolutionize location services with its low power requirements and ability to precisely pinpoint users’ locations inside buildings. Mobile apps can then take advantage of this location data in a variety of ways, such as providing indoor mapping and navigation or customizing the app’s behavior based on a user’s proximity to a specific object.

Retailers looking for ways to enhance the shopping experience for customers need to explore Apple’s new iBeacon technology. With iBeacon’s ability to deliver targeted information and offers based on a customer’s location within your store, you are now given the opportunity to interact with your customers in a new, more engaging way.

retail customer using iBeacon technologyThis new technology could be the boost that the retail industry needs. With iBeacon, you have ability to provide your customers with relevant marketing and messaging as they browse and shop through your store, even before they come into your store! An example of proximity marketing would be this, let’s say you are a general retail or convenience store and you sell umbrellas and the forecast calls for rain today. You can send a message like: “Need an umbrella? We have umbrellas at half price today on aisle 2. It’s a good buy and stay dry!”

In addition, these features can be customized as well for each retail location, effectively making each location a one-of-a-kind operation. By using micro-locations within the store, customizable to each retail location, you can give the customer a multitude of engaging and unique experiences.

Furthermore, retailers should consider creating a customized mobile app (or updating your current app). Customers will find their visit to your store more convenient and interactive with a mobile app in hand, and at the same time, you can take advantage of this micro-location technology enabled by these iBeacons.

With the help of these iBeacon transmitters placed throughout your store, a customer’s activity can be tracked, thus allowing you to serve up relevant offers, price comparisons, product information and more based on the location or department the shopper is in. The current price of each in-store transmitter is approximately $40.

Both retail and non-retail organizations have embraced iBeacon technology. Apple has already installed iBeacons in all 254 of its U.S. retail stores; Macy’s department stores in New York and San Francisco have been experimenting with delivering users information about the products that they are browsing, ads for additional and potentially competing products, targeted deals and specials. The New York Mets have announced plans to use iBeacons to enhance fan involvement by creating a highly tailored digital experience at Citi Field, their home ballpark.

Here’s a sampling of some other uses for iBeacon currently being explored and implemented by various industries:

  1. Restaurants, sandwich and coffee shops, etc: Offer a virtual menu with specific details about each item: calorie counts, nutritional info, local farms where produce was grown, even suggest a wine pairing for each meal.
  2. Hotels and resorts: Provide a virtual concierge accessible from anywhere on the property, offer expedited check-in and check-out, deliver information on amenities, provide a local forecast and educate guests about points of interest around town.
  3. Museums (zoos, exhibitions, gallery shows): Provide basic information about what the visitor is seeing. iBeacons at each stopping point could offer additional information and content in a way that still allows visitors to take their own path and/or linger at a specific display. iBeacon content could be linked to websites, apps, discussion forums, and so on.
  4. Hospitals: Provide maps and navigation for patients and their families to navigate through the hospital, including guides of each floor showing the nearest elevators and entrances; broadcast information and guidance to patients or visitors such as guidelines when visiting a patient, visiting hours, expected wait times to be attended to.

Up to now, most activity surrounding iBeacon technology has been in the world of retail, where both big name retailers and small shops have recognized the iBeacon’s potential.

In-store navigation and dynamic pricing is just the beginning. The other area of great potential is in payments. While the problem of digital wallets using near-field communication (NFC) has proved tricky, it appears that Bluetooth technology is poised to finally bring mobile payments to the mainstream.

Whereas NFC technology works only with a small percentage of Android devices that actually have NFC chips installed in them and only in close proximity to sensors used for payments. iBeacon, on the other hand, can broadcast up to 200 feet which could allow for customers to simply leave their phones in their pockets and automatically pay as they walk out of the store.

How could this new technology be used to create a unique shopping experience for the customer and a profitable one for your business?

Begin by integrating iBeacon into your already successful sales process – specifically part of your direct mail and other marketing campaigns. The process is simple, straightforward, cost effective and potentially very profitable.

  1. In your next direct mail or other marketing campaign, include a QR code on the mail piece that links to a digital coupon for a special, targeted promotion. Customers simply scan the QR code to get the coupon stored onto his/her phone.
  2. Once the coupon is stored on their phone, a notification appears directly to the customer’s phone reminding them of the offer each time they drive by or are nearby your store.
  3. Retail locations can be sectioned off into any number of distinct sections – each with its own iBeacon transmitter and each transmitter serving up a unique message (or offer) within areas of that location.

The iBeacon experience will enhance the in-store experience for your customers and could lead to purchases that he/she may not have even considered before.

online review

The Value of Online Reviews

Online Reviews: A Trusted Source For New and Repeat Business

online review

“Word-of-mouth” is still one of the most powerful sales and marketing tools available to businesses and one of the most popular ways for consumers to recommend local businesses. A good customer referral could in fact be the best source for gaining new business. Research studies show customers putting referrals at the top of the list of important factors in determining from whom they will buy and what they will buy.

It’s common for people to use the Internet to conveniently search for products or services online and compare businesses in order to make more informed purchase decisions. Now, with a variety of online review sites available, customers can also read reviews about businesses and even provide a review of their own. Therefore, “Word-of-mouth” is expanding to include the “Word-of-Net” which essentially can spread like wildfire.

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According to the results of a recent Local Consumer Review Survey, published in June 2013, consumers tend to trust what they read, with almost 80% saying they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In addition, 73% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use that local business (up from 58% last year). Therefore making reputation management more important now than ever. The study also indicates that an increasing number of consumers are reading online reviews to determine whether a local business is reputable (76% last year to 85% now) and two-thirds need to read fewer than six reviews before forming an opinion about the business. These results strongly illustrate the power of positive online reviews and this momentum should only increase given consumers’ rising use of the Internet to select local businesses.

With regard to the types of attributes consumers look for in a review, when it comes to “reputation traits,” 71% chose reliability as the most important trait in a local business (up from 64% last year) followed by good value at 45%. Reliability and professionalism are most important when recommending a business to someone they know, followed by being friendly and welcoming. Also, of those surveyed, 54% would recommend a business if it had a good value offer or discount.

Given that people can so rapidly search online for reviews via their laptop or phone and online reviews also make their way into the social media world for example in Facebook posts or tweets, renders these online reviews extremely valuable for businesses. Let’s not forget the massive business potential there is to gain from customer referrals. Therefore, it is ever so important for businesses to focus on acquiring more customer reviews.

One good place to start is with your “regulars.” The art and practice of gaining good referrals needs to be subtle and never pushy. First and foremost, continue to employ good business practices to satisfy your regular customers and keep them coming back, eventually they may make referrals on their own. However, in the event they may not be aware they can do this or don’t know where to go to leave a review, there are polite and subtle ways to ask for the referral from your regular (and even new) clientele. Here are a few:

  1. Create a takeaway piece. When someone raves about something they liked about a service or purchase, wouldn’t it be great to capitalize on that in the moment? Create a takeaway piece with a list of the online review sites your business uses and hand this to customers on their way out or slip it into the bag with merchandise purchased. It’s not necessary to include all the sites, but select those that are the most valuable. Be sure to note what it is with a subtle gesture like, “Thanks! We’re so glad you enjoyed your ______. Perhaps consider writing a review for us and letting others know where to go for quality products/services!”
  2. Include in your “thank you” email. When sending your “Thank your for your business!” email, this could also be a great place to request a review of the product or service you provided. Within the email somewhere, be sure to include direct links to the review sites to make it easier. This method is great because it’s done while the purchase/service is still fresh in the consumer’s mind.
  3. Remind your social media followers to leave a review. Perhaps a message or micro-post on your social media pages for example, “If you liked your service, consider leaving us a review! It helps us continue to provide a great product/service and lets others know a good place to go!” Remember that the life of a tweet or a Facebook post is very short, so you may need to repeat the message to reach as many people as possible.

 

NEXT: Choosing Good Review Sites For Your Business

You probably have some customers that would be happy to write a review for you, however, where should they post them? In addition to choosing a big review site, like Yelp or Google+, it is also important to get reviews posted on a variety of sites. This diversity can help boost your local SEO rankings.

In choosing review sites, here are some things to factor in:

  1. Visibility. Some review sites give you more local visibility per-review than others. This is an important factor when trying to increase your local customer base.
  2. Leverage Factors. There are other ways certain types of reviews can benefit you such as reviews from “top reviewers,” like Yelp’s “Elite Squad” or Google’s “City Experts” or review sites where owner responses are allowed.
  3. Difficulty Factors. What to avoid, for example, if the site has a policy against asking for reviews, such as Yelp, you may want to avoid that if you’re using encouragement tactics with customers. Another thing to avoid is if a site doesn’t allow Facebook logins, which helps eliminate a step for your customers by allowing them to use their Facebook account to log-in to write a review.

For a visual representation and more on the above factors in building your online review strategy see localvisibilitysystem.com’s comparison chart.

*BrightLocal.com survey data: The data is based on a survey of 2,100 North Americans (90% US; 10% Canada) consisting of 14 total survey questions, conducted over 6 weeks in January-February 2013.