Retailers have a new pint-sized weapon to lure shoppers into brick-and-mortar stores and away from e-commerce competitors: beacons. These small, low-cost wireless broadcasting devices use low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit messages directly to nearby smartphones or tablets. By using beacons, retailers can send prompts to people passing by or shopping inside their stores, serving up real-time coupons and other offers.
The technology’s potential is huge. A report by BI Intelligence says beacons will directly influence more than $4 billion worth of U.S. retail sales this year, and that number will climb tenfold in 2016.
The report notes that many early adopters who opt in to receive beacon-triggered messages will likely be coupon clippers and loyalty program members. The beacons also create the potential for more data collection and personalized offers, as shoppers download beacon apps and share personal information.