It’s not fair to say traditional media no longer have consumer appeal; after all the John Lewis Christmas ad makes its own headlines each year!

However, new technologies are creating ways for fashion retailers to connect with shoppers in a cheaper, more immediate manner.

Last year, Regent Street was the first street in Europe to adopt Beacon technology in each of its stores. Retailers, airports and shopping centres are increasingly adopting this evolving technology.

What is Beacon?

Beacons are small wireless devices which can be placed around stores to send electronic content to shoppers’ smartphones, using the shopper’s location in store and information on their buying preferences.

While the technology is still in fairly early stages, the possibilities seem endless.

Beacons in shop windows can send “push notifications” of offers to customers, encouraging them to enter stores.

In-store Beacons can transmit product information to direct shoppers to items matching their preferences. Beacons in mannequins can send information or customer reviews to smart phones when the shopper looks at the display.

Using similar technology, Burberry recently introduced tags in its garments, which transmit to interactive mirrors in store, showing matching runway footage when the shopper tries on the item.

Information overload…

The technology can build powerful profiles, which can combine information the customer uploads, with information on which stores are visited and even how long a shopper looks at an item. 

In some stores, this information can be transmitted to store assistants’ iPads, helping them to serve the customer. Imagine walking into a shop where the assistant knows your name, likes and dislikes and even online purchasing history! 

This arguably sounds great, in terms of offering personalised, interactive shopping experiences. However, retailers need to balance the perks with the danger of alienating shoppers with unwanted spam, adverts and intrusion.

What about data privacy?

With new technologies also come legal risks, particularly in relation to data privacy.

The Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations restrict how individuals’ data can be stored, used and shared – particularly when used for marketing purposes.

When collecting and handling customer data, our top tips are:

  • Understand how the data is going to be used – retailers should have transparency over data collected from their customers, especially how the data will be used, stored and shared with third parties.
  • Have a data privacy policy in place… then follow it – retail websites should contain a privacy policy, explaining how personal data will be used. It is important to keep the policy accurate and up to date.
  • Get consent – individuals should give their prior consent to exactly which data is to be collected and how it will be used and shared. When providing data via a smartphone, the shopper should be given a link to the full privacy policy, along with a prominent summary of key terms.
  • Retailers will need to consider how to achieve this.  Should users click “I accept” every time they walk into the shop, for example?
  • Read the terms and conditions – the majority of retailers implementing these technologies will use a software services provider.  Appropriate terms and conditions should be put in place with those providers, including obligations on how the provider will use the retailer’s customer data and keep it safe. 

With safeguards in place, these new marketing technologies hold very exciting opportunities for retailers, brands and consumers.