Are beacons threatened by retailer app ambivalence? A new survey (n=70) from Shop.org and Forrester Research, discussed in The State of Online Retailing, says that many large retailers have “quietly opted to put apps on the back burner” — and, perhaps unwittingly, beacons with them.
No app, no beacons.
At some point, indoor location services may be available through the mobile browser or otherwise on smartphones. However, today an app is required before beacons can be triggered or utilized by smartphones.
The Forrester survey identifies mobile as the top retailer priority. Yet there was a lack of action to support mobile. Respondents were spending only “modestly” on mobile development and, as indicated, many were turning their backs on apps.
Less than half (44%) said that apps were now a key part of their mobile strategies. Instead many retailers are focusing on the mobile web. This may be realistic from one perspective but is also short-sighted.
Source: Shop.org, Forrester Research
Getting consumers to download and use retailer apps has been challenging. Most have not offered sufficient functionality or value to justify continued use. But, as mentioned, beacons (and other indoor-location technologies) rely on the presence of relevant apps to deliver their content or capabilities.
Ironically indoor location technologies, such as beacons, can deliver content (offers, product/inventory locators, payments) that makes retailer apps more valuable. But users can’t experience that content without the retailer app in the first place.
Most retailers in the survey (77%) said they had some sort of mobile-optimized or responsively designed website. And while the mobile web offers much greater reach than apps, engagement is typically much less. Retailers should be pursuing a dual mobile web and app strategy, with the goal of moving more users (or certain more loyal categories of users) into the app tier.
There was little discussion of beacon technology in the report. Only 25% of respondents said they were planning to invest in it this year (n=52). Beacons seemed to be roughly in the middle of mobile priorities. The survey sample was small but suggests, together with other data in the market, that retailers are more focused on e-commerce or driving store visits vs. developing richer in-store experiences around smartphones.
Of course you can’t do everything at once. But the survey results imply that most retailers still don’t really know what to do with indoor location.