As an entrepreneur, why should you care about beacons? This is a question I think about a lot, so let me put it to you this way: While there are many disruptive technologies out there, there is usually only one in a generation that transforms just about every industry. Think about it. In the 80's it was personal computers. In the 90's it was the Internet. Social media came next and then smart phones. So why do I believe beacons should be considered next in line on that impressive list?

Adding the right context to smart phones will transform physical retail stores in the same way that data analytics and customer relationship marketing transformed eCommerce. When your Amazon.com page loads, Amazon knows everything about you--who you are, what you've bought, what you considered, but didn't buy, and the now famous, "people who bought x, also bought y" product recommendation engine.

To say that retail is being transformed by beacons is an understatement. The impact mobile proximity marketing and specifically beacons technology is having on the world of retail is that tens of billions of dollars are already being influenced via mobile in-store shopper marketing.

But until recently, most of this effort was "push" based. Meaning, if you walked into a desirable location such as a designated retail store, a marketing message would be "pushed" to your mobile device. And this kind of push marketing, at least for now, has been quite effective. But what if we could pull in customers instead of pushing them?

I recently interviewed Shelfbucks CEO, Erik McMillan and not only are there some recent developments coming out of Shelfbucks that are likely to speed up retailer and manufacturer adoption of beacons, but their approach could change the way companies think about the deployment of their mobile proximity marketing.

In order to illustrate what Shelfbucks is doing, let's start with Menasha, a multi-billion dollar packaging and Point of Sale company you probably have never heard of. Menasha "created and installed roughly 40 million in-store POP displays for hundreds of CPG brands at more than 55,000 retail locations" according to an article published in Walmart Supplier News.

Shelfbucks and Menasha recently partnered together so that new Menasha displays will incorporate the Shelfbucks (beacons-based) Smart Display platform into branded Point of Sale (POS) merchandising. The implication being that very quickly, millions of beacons will be deployed across tens of thousands of retail locations. Here's why this is interesting for retailers, manufactures and consumers alike.

Retailers Get: Reporting, Increased App Downloads, and New Revenue
Manufacturers Get: Pull Marketing, Enhanced In-Store Engagement, and Reporting
Consumers Get: More Relevant Engagements, Enhanced Shopping Experiences, and Offers

Anyone who has worked in the field of Shopper Marketing, is familiar with the "Attract, Engage, Convert" strategy. This is the basic tenant of shopper marketing. According to the 2012 POPAI Shopper Engagement Study, as much as 76% of buying decisions are made in the store at the point of purchase, and so you can imagine that merchandising will continue to be a critical component of driving sales.

"The addition of Shelfbucks technology to POP displays instantly provides CPG manufacturers and retailers with access to millions of new data points for measuring the impact of merchandising on local, regional and national levels, as well as historically unavailable indicators for determining product performance," said Erik McMillan. "And because we can now provide near real-time performance data, brands and retailers can rapidly adjust in-store campaigns based on timely information on shopper behavior."

While static displays will continue to "Attract" shoppers, Smart Displays will dramatically increase the effectiveness of the "Engage" and "Convert" portions of Shopper Marketing. And, if Shelfbucks has anything to say about it, there's a good chance you could be using their technology in the near future.

Published on: Feb 25, 2015