Beacons study


The technology sounds kind of cool, at first – coupons that you might actually want, sent directly to your phone as you shop. But how does the coupon issuer know what you like? Or know where you are in the store? What exactly do you need to offer in return, to receive those types of deals?

That’s what a significant number of shoppers want to know. And many of them aren’t buying into the idea of giving up a little privacy in exchange for savings. If it means letting a retailer follow your phone signal to track your movements down the aisles, and analyzing your purchase history, many people are opting out.

Two out of three shoppers in a new survey said they are not currently interested in receiving push notifications from retailers or in-store mobile tracking. And one out of three said, no matter if there are coupons or other types of benefits available, they will “never opt into in-store tracking”. That’s never, no way, not going to happen.

The survey results come from Walker Sands Communications’ latest annual “Future of Retail” report. And they could be something of a worrisome finding, for those who are pinning their hopes on in-store beacons and other ways of communicating directly with shoppers, if a third of all people want absolutely nothing to do with it.

“Location-based technology, such as geo-targeting and beacons, hasn’t taken off as soon as some retailers expected,” the report’s authors acknowledge. Retailers have been dabbling in it, with CVS, Rite Aid and Target among those trying out in-store beacons. The small transmitters are placed all over a store, in order to communicate with your phone as you shop. Then you can get notified of deals and information relevant to where you are in the store, and what products you like to buy.

But opting in for such offers, is a tradeoff that many shoppers aren’t willing to make. 64% of holdouts said they’re worried about privacy, with a similar percentage citing concerns about message overload. And “almost half say they find it creepy,” the report reads, “a perception challenge that will be much more difficult for retailers to overcome.”


There are still opportunities, though. Even though a third of shoppers say they’re not at all interested in the technology, the Walker Sands report takes a more optimistic approach, seeing the glass as half-full instead of half-empty.

“Our research shows that the majority of consumers are open to the mobile technology if offered the proper incentives,” the report finds. “In most cases, a discount or better in-store experience would persuade them to give the technology a try.”

61% of those who had never opted in to push notifications and in-store tracking, said they would be willing to do so in exchange for coupons. About half would do so for loyalty rewards, and a third would opt in if it made for a faster checkout.

So maybe there’s some hope for beacons and in-store tracking after all. Remember, not too long ago, a large percentage of people concerned about privacy said they’d never join a retail loyalty program, either. And now, American shoppers hold more than 3 billion loyalty program memberships.

Walker Sands said it’s about becoming comfortable with the technology, and the benefits it provides. It’s easy to say you’re not interested, after all, if you have no experience with it. “With relatively few retailers experimenting with in-store technology like beacons and so few consumers having experienced it so far, this is still a huge area of potential growth for the future of retail,” the report concluded. “If retailers can figure out the right balance of incentives and discretion, we could see beacons explode in the near future.”

That’s what some retail prognosticators said a few years ago. And it hasn’t happened yet. But if more retailers get on board and shoppers come around, maybe this time they’ll be right.

Image source: Walker Sands


  1. I opted in at cvs for 3 days. Every time I drove past a cvs (approx every 1-2 miles around here) my phone would go crazy w/notifications & deals. By day 3 it got so annoying I opted out. Good riddance. Ymmv

Privacy Policy
Disclosure Policy