First UK shopping centre implements Beacon technology

A South Coast shopping centre has become first in the UK to use Beacon technology that enables retailers to acknowledge customers' presence and deliver targeted ads.

The roll out of the technology, which was popularised by Apple's iBeacon version in the US, in The Swan Centre in Eastleigh allows shoppers inside the centre to receive discount offers from retailers straight to their phones – without having to open an app or browse a website.

The service has been developed by Brighton-based tech startup TagPoints. Using Beacon technology, the company has incorporated its ‘TagBeacons’ platform into The Swan Centre’s popular white-labelled ‘SmartRewards’ app.

Beacons are low energy blue tooth devices that ‘ping’ a location message to smart phones, allowing consumers who have downloaded a retailer’s app to receive location-based content and advertising. Beacon technology was first introduced in Apple's recent iOS7 update – both Android phones are compatible with the system.

Users download and install the white-labelled ‘SmartRewards’ app and turn on their phone’s Bluetooth connection. Upon entering the shopping centre, low energy transmitters detect the customer’s presence. The Beacons have a maximum range of 50m and allow advertisers to locate a user within a few feet.

Along with a welcome message, customers entering the centre receive 10 points to their loyalty account, which can be used in conjunction with merchant discount offers. As more TagBeacons are installed throughout the centre, they will receive retailer-specific promotions.

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The frequency and targeting of these messages with be carefully controlled to ensure no single customer is bombarded with messages. The focus is on delivering a relevant message to the consumer while boosting merchant sales. The TagBeacon solution also helps shopping centres and their clients accurately measure footfall figures in real-time.

TagBeacons can also be used for non-promotional activity like way-finding and customer service.

“There’s a real buzz within the retail industry about the potential of location-based technology to help engage with and market services to the public,” said Mark Robinson, investment director at Ellandi, owner of the Swan Centre.

"It offers them the ability to connect with motivated customers and deliver filtered offers and discounts – based location and proximity – directly to their mobile phones. Our merchants are now able to communicate directly with customers and positively influence their spending patterns without having to lift a finger.”

The company that delivers the white-label solution – known as TagBeacons – said the installation ushers in a new era of mobile advertising.

“While this is the first time this system has been used in a UK shopping centre, the technology is being used overseas in places including New York’s iconic department store Macys,” said Jess Stephens, co-founder of TagPoints.

“Retailers are comfortable with integrating consumers’ mobile habits into their stores and an increasing number realise that to counter the impact the internet shopping is having on sales, they have to do more than offer their own apps and Wi-Fi within their stores. Location-based technology allows them to use digital marketing strategies to improve the shopping experience.”

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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