From Magazines to Malls: How Retailers Are Leveraging Beacon Technology

Beacons are enabling location-based advertising services to bridge the divide between products placed in magazines and retail shopping experiences.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Apr 10, 2015

ShopAdvisor, a consumer shopping service that enables online comparison shopping right from the digital pages of a magazine, has 6 million users.

"Say you're flipping through Cosmopolitan on your tablet," explains Scott Cooper, ShopAdvisor's CEO. You'll see a small icon in the corner of the photo, he says, and a ShopAdvisor message will pop up, saying, "Here are the jeans Kim Kardashian is wearing and where they're available," along with the names of five retailers selling that clothing. You can then click right through to find the retailer selling the jeans in your size and at a price your are willing to pay.

A Titan ad from the Levi's trial
Suddenly, the magazine is a sales platform.

Plus, by joining ShopAdvisor, you have told the application what you like, your size and what your are willing to pay, all of which are built into your personalized profile. Based on this information, ShopAdvisor will then send you occasional special offers.

But last fall, ShopAdvisor took its application into the Internet of Things. In a trial involving Levi Strauss & Co., Titan (a company that sells outdoor advertising space) , and beacon provider Gimbal, ShopAdvisor ran a program that sent special offers to the smartphones of ShopAdvisor users (who had their phone's location-based services option and GPS radio turned on and beacon radio enabled) as they passed by one of 150 beacons installed on a Titan advertising kiosk near Levi's stores, showing a Levi's ad, or at the entrance to Levi's retail stores in New York City and San Francisco. The trial lasted for five weeks during the late-summer back-to-school shopping season.

The push notifications included a coupon offering a 30 percent discount on anything in the store, Cooper says, along with directions to the store. To avoid overwhelming the user, the application limited the number of messages it delivered.

The trial's results were quite positive, Cooper reports. While a 1 percent response rate is typical for GPS-based location-aware advertisements, 16 percent of the consumers who received the ShopAdvisor notice visited a Levi's store. Recipients who also showed a preference for Levi's products in their ShopAdvisor profiles visited the stores at a rate 2.6 times greater than those who did not have Levi's products listed.

According to Cooper, the trial helped show that "the IoT is changing the game" for location-based systems. His company, he says, acts as a bridge for shoppers who use ShopAdvisor at home, while browsing through magazines, but also in stores, by linking the app to beacon deployments being launched by specific retailers or malls.

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