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When are retailers going to be done testing beacons already, and start using them to improve the in-store experience and send some savings straight to our phones?

Walgreens, for one, appears to be getting closer, with a new app update that it’s not talking about just yet.

For years, beacons have been hailed as the next new thing in retail. The low-powered Bluetooth transmitters can communicate with your phone to provide features like in-store maps, and mobile coupons based on your location in the store.

But few have fully implemented the technology yet. Target installed beacons in a few dozen stores last year, and hasn’t said much about them since. Rite Aid installed them in every one of its 4,500+ stores earlier this year, but doesn’t appear to have done anything with them yet.

Walgreens began testing beacons in a handful of its Duane Reade drug stores in New York a couple of years ago. And it’s been vague about expansion plans ever since. That is, until it recently introduced an update to its iOS mobile app.

“We redesigned the in-store app experience, leveraging beacons to give you amazing access to deals and coupons while you shop,” the app update promises.

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Does that mean Walgreens has now deployed beacons in all of its locations? That you can visit a store, open your Walgreens app and watch as your phone starts buzzing with “amazing” coupon offers?

Walgreens isn’t saying. A spokesperson said the company is “not ready to share” information on its beacon program just yet. And a recent visit to a Walgreens store with the newly-updated app resulted in a phone that remained frustratingly silent and devoid of any amazing offers.

But that may change soon, whenever Walgreens is ready to confirm the announcement it’s already made in its own app update.

As for Rite Aid, don’t forget that Walgreens is in the process of buying out its smaller rival. So either or both drug store chains could be waiting for the deal to be finalized, before pulling the trigger on a large-scale beacon activation across the combined company’s thousands of stores.

Nearly a year ago, Juniper Research predicted that nearly 1.6 billion coupons will be delivered via beacons in 2020, up from a mere 11 million in 2015. Juniper was encouraged by the fact that “a number of leading retailers have now begun to deploy beacons in their stores and outlets.”

But deploying beacons, and actually turning the darned things on, are two different matters. So stores like Walgreens, Rite Aid and Target had better get busy. According to Juniper, they have more than a billion coupons to deliver – and only a few more years to start doing it.

Image source: Walgreens / JeepersMedia

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