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Smartphones, Beacons Changing the In-store Landscape

6 Aug, 2014 By: Doug McPherson

NEW YORK – A new report from the Business Insider Intelligence predicts that by 2015, 30,000 beacons will be active in the U.S. – and about 80 percent of them will be in retail stores.

It appears that’s just start of a beacon trend because with more than 50 suppliers, analysts say a massive onslaught of beacon technology is on its way. The installed base is projected to grow 287 percent to 5 million beacons within four years. Four million of those are anticipated to be used by retailers.

The report notes that half of the top 100 retailers in the U.S. are testing beacons this year and a third of them are expected to deploy them in stores by the end of 2015.

And there’s more good news on the smartphone side of the equation when considering the coming proliferation of in-store beacons: a new study from comScore says consumers are starting to use their smartphones to research products more deeply while in stores.

comScore says 36 percent of U.S. smartphone users in stores are using their devices to compare prices, and 16 percent conduct specific searches for or directly access online retailers.

Specific consumer smartphone actions include:

  • Reading customer reviews: 27 percent
  • Calling, E-mailing or texting friends and family to request feedback: 23 percent
  • Reading product details: 22 percent
  • Scanning a QR code: 18 percent
  • Checking in-stock status at that retailer’s other stores or website: 17 percent
  • Taking photos of products: 14 percent.

Another 9 percent of U.S. smartphone users place orders on their devices in stores, though the study did not ask if those orders were placed with the retailer whose store a customer was in or with a competing retailer.

One challenge for the beacon business, insiders say, is the status of the phones receiving beacon signals.

While apps in iPhones can be instantly awakened with Apple’s iBeacon technology, Android apps have to be running, at least in the background, which drains battery power, though that problem is expected to be solved in future iterations of Android.

There are about 260 million iOS smartphones and 310 million Android phones in use around the world that can scan for nearby beacons. By the end of next year, Business Insider Intelligence estimates the total number to pass more than 1 billion.

Chuck Martin, a writer with MediaPost News, said beacons “will be front and center” at this week’s annual Online Media, Marketing, and Advertising (OMMA) conference in New York. “Mobile commerce has evolved to a point that no one can ignore it. And it’s not going away,” he says.

About the Author: Doug McPherson

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