Recently Facebook announced that it would give free beacons to US retailers that sign up to participate in its Place Tips program. Place Tips is a feature in Facebook that allows users to explore more about a place they are visiting, whether it’s exploring their friends’ photos or moments about which they have written. These locations can be stores or businesses and this connection is what Facebook is looking to exploit. Hence, Facebook is connecting the user to the store not only virtually, but literally, in-store through a beacon.
Beacons are moving into mainstream retail as a way of communicating with consumers indoors through an app in their smart mobile device. It is a low-cost device that a retailer can affix anywhere in-store to push notifications, product information, and discounts.
Not coincidentally, Twitter recently invested in a start-up company Swirl that specialises in beacon marketing.
What’s happening? We are taking the “e” out of e-commerce and shopping is just becoming “commerce”. Case in point, Alibaba, one of the most valuable brands in the world, dropped the word “e-commerce” from its corporate vision and it now reads, “We aim to build the future infrastructure of commerce.”
The concept of e-commerce and in-store shopping being two distinct silos is yesterday’s news. Today’s shopper doesn’t think like that (and actually probably never did) and they use whatever tools that are convenient to assist in their purchase. Hence, the rise of the digitally assisted shopper. And that’s why the likes of Facebook and Twitter are investing in in-store hardware and software.
According to a recent report by Deloitte Digital, digital influenced sales were a staggering $1.7 trillion in the US in 2014, which is almost 6 times the value of pure ecommerce sales.
In-store shoppers assisted by digital are likely to spend more and convert higher. Why is this? Consumers are using digital to do product research and may very well end up buying the more expensive product or another complimentary component. They are also using their digital device to find discounts and coupons, which in turn improves conversion and, as research has shown, leads to an increase in the average order value.
Retailers take heed to the big players like Facebook, Twitter and Alibaba. They are paving the way for the digitally assisted shopper.
Greta Paa-Kerner (@gretapk) is an Associate Lecturer on sales management and digital marketing as well as a Consultant through Ganduxer Consulting.