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Sorry Regent Street, but your Beacons aren’t flashing quite bright enough yet

Retail therapy on Regent Street was recently given a digital upgrade with the launch of a mobile app which would connect to iBeacons to help push promotions to consumers nearby. James Graemer, Senior Strategist, for integrated marketing agency LIFE offers his views on the experience having taken a trip down the shops to try it out.

I had high hopes for the Regent Street App. Not least because the launch was backed by a promise from David Shaw, head of The Crown Estate’s Regent Street Portfolio that it would: “Provide an experience which delivers across all of the platforms that appeal to 21st century shoppers.”

Regent Street is a world class shopping destination and is leading the way when it comes to tech-savvy retailers and flagship stores. It has been missing one opportunity however: to seamlessly connect the shopper, the retailer and the road they (respectively) walk and live on. That is until now.

With bated breath, Shaw’s promise in mind and smartphone in hand, I wandered down Regent Street to try the app out for myself.

Prior to hitting the high street, shoppers are required to download and set up the Regent Street app. This takes around five minutes and includes selecting the stores you’re interested in hearing from. From thereon in, notifications are targeted to the user’s preferences as defined within the app. Without linking into a store’s direct app or loyalty card data, this is as much as retailers can hope to achieve when attempting to personalise the experience.

Speaking to people who regularly shop high-end fashion, many stated that what they wanted most from a Beacon interaction was ‘new news’ and therefore they didn’t just want to receive sale messages, of which I received a few. It’s obvious from the window displays and shoppers’ ingrained seasonal knowledge that the retailers are discounting. Notifications like these add little to the shopper experience and the information isn’t anything they couldn’t find out if they followed a brand on Twitter or actually looked at a shop window – call me old-fashioned!

At present the Beacon notifications are mainly being used to send proximity push messaging, a service already mastered by Weve. The opportunity of the technology and the potential to create a completely seamless in-store experience, with aisle and product specific information as well as deals is there for all to see. But while everyone might be talking about it, no store seems to have effectively executed this.

Beacon technology should be used to increase the number of trips shoppers make to a favourite store or to drive shoppers into a store they wouldn’t necessarily enter as opposed to pushing generic sales promotion messages. It would have been nice for example, to have been given a reason to stride into Karl Lagerfeld – a store I’d usually side-step. Not only would this give the Regent Street App a higher purpose, but it would add value to the Beacon technology.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of my trial was to see that the tech does actually work in the field. Now it becomes a challenge for brands, retailers and their agencies to identify the best way to use new techniques like this to generate sales and enhance the shopping experience.

We as an industry can help our clients to deliver this experience by understanding each stage of the purchase decision journey, the points of influence and the most appropriate messaging for each of these touch points. Much of this will also come down to making full use of shopper data.

Once we reach the point of being able to track what types of messages are acted on by specific individuals, then we can segment shopper types; voucher shoppers, new fashion shoppers, impulsive shoppers, etc, and increase relevance continually.

There is huge potential to change consumer behaviour via Beacon tech if brands can communicate more considered information and offers whilst a consumer is physically on the path to purchase. I had high hopes for the Regent Street App and while it might not have delivered on all fronts, it has highlighted just how powerful a tool Beacon technology can be.

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