Back in 2014, online trendspotter InfoWorld predicted that widespread adoption of beacon technology by major retailers was imminent. Beacon software was celebrated for its ability to connect to our smartphones and tablets so retailers could market to us directly and launch a new level of interactive retail experience.

Supermarkets looking for the right approach

Despite all the excitement, by last year there was still a distinct lack of the technology in-store. A few early adopters including Tesco, Waitrose, Asda and John Lewis trialled it in concept stores, but the efforts were tentative and short-lived. Tesco senior group marketing manager for mobile Mark Cody discussed one of the grocery giant’s challenges with Campaign magazine: ‘All our data is in one place, so with any messages we send to our customers, we have a pretty good idea of who those customers are. If you look at the Tesco shopper it is pretty representative of the whole UK, so you’ve got to make sure you are not sending the same message to everyone.’

Department stores contacting shoppers via mobile devices

But fits and starts are typical with new technology, and its use is still spreading. Macy’s has used the Shopkick app to send in-store rewards to customers via their mobiles devices for a few years now, while Hudson’s Bay Co., North America’s longest-running company, has been rolling out similar technology across the US and Canada, using a range of apps like SnipSnap to send tailored style tips and coupons.

Fashion magazines harness beacon technology

In late 2015 style magazine Elle partnered up with several brands including Levi’s, Barnes & Noble, Guess and Vince Camuto to harness beacon technology via ShopAdvisor and RetailMeNot apps. Users receive a push notification when in close proximity to participating stores, which lets them know that Elle’s top fashion picks are available to buy where users are. Once the customer visits the store, they receive a promotional code for discounts, such as £25 off a purchase that day. The take-up has been strong, and other magazines are following in the wake of Elle’s success. Vogue and InStyle have both been trialling beacon-connected apps to connect readers with retailers.

Are the campaigns succeeding in driving more revenue?

During the first five weeks of the Elle campaign, the open rate of the notifications was 15 times higher than the average in advertising campaigns, leading to over five hundred thousand customer store visits. Success rates have also been impressive for Hillshire Brands who saw six thousand in-store engagements after they applied beacon tech to launch a new range of American Craft sausages.

In the face of such successes, those jumping on board with the technology include the largest American real estate trust, Simon Malls; the mannequin and retail display company Universal Display; and a handful of Regent Street stores.