Small Bookseller Flips On the Switch for Beacons

Bluetooth beacons integrated into new LED lighting serves as a one-two punch for a better-lit store and increased customer outreach.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jan 30, 2015

Quick! Name a technology-focused sector of the retail industry. Brick-and-mortar booksellers might not land high on your list, but don't be fooled by their, well, bookish reputation. Perhaps more than any other type of retailer, booksellers have been forced to evolve and change as e-commerce has reshaped the way in which consumers purchase reading material.

"We have always tried to pivot and accept technology that helps us," explains Pete Mulvihill, a co-owner of 48-year-old San Francisco bookstore Green Apple Books. "We accept Bitcoins, for example, which not a lot of brick-and-mortar businesses accept. In terms of technology, we like throwing things to the wall and seeing what sticks. If it doesn't work out, then we move on."

New releases on display at Green Apple Books, including Kevin Ashton's How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery
Last year, Green Apple Books made a big move—especially for an independent bookstore in the age of Amazon and e-books: It opened a second location. "Brick-and-mortar stores are not going away," Mulvihill says. "[Consumers] get the 'shop local' message, and bookstores are still vibrant and add character to neighborhoods."

In addition to its original location in the city's Richmond neighborhood, there is now Green Apple Books On the Park, located in the Inner Sunset neighborhood, just a block off Golden Gate Park's panhandle. At the first location—a building that predates the city's 1906 earthquake—the original gas-powered lamps are still in place (though are no longer used). That's quite a contrast to the new store, where fixtures containing cutting-edge LED technology and integrated Bluetooth beacons illuminate the retail space, while also supporting an application designed to boost customer loyalty and engagement.

Mulvihill and his co-owners upgraded the lighting at the new location, which opened in a former video store last August, out of necessity. "We had some problems with dark spots inside the store," he explains, "and the old [compact fluorescent] fixtures were big and clunky, and they also buzzed loudly."

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