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Carrefour undertakes first large-scale beacon deployment in Romanian hypermarkets

Multinational retailer Carrefour has placed iBeacon networks in 28 of its hypermarket stores in Romania, pointing to the inevitable global rollout of personalized shopping experiences on mobile.

Carrefour claims this is the first project of its kind that taps 600 Onyx Beacon devices and is able to interact with the public at a commercial network level. Consumers who download the supermarket’s application from Google Play can receive customized offers and in-store maps, while the app collects valuable data about shopping behavior.

“This Carrefour project, being a premiere and directly interacting for the first time with the general public, is offering for the moment only the benefits of in-store navigation and commercial communication about the active offers of each store department,” said Doru ?upeala, marketing and communications manager at Onyx Beacon, Cluj Napoca, Romania.

“The client can configure a shopping list when entering the store; the application is guiding him to the store departments of interest and informs the visitor about the promotions available on each area of the store,” he said.

“Retailers can now take advantage of the accurate analytics that can be gathered by the cloud platform which is administrating the iBeacon fleets: they can get and evaluate traffic data, heatmaps, visit frequency and duration, crowded time intervals and so on.”

Convenient shopping
Consumers who enter the supermarket can pick up one of the shopping carts waiting by the entrance, which will be equipped with Samsung generation tablets on the handles. A large floor sticker invites customers to download the Smart Shopping app, who may then decide which store section they would like to visit first, based on a predefined list of departments.

Users may also create their personal shopping lists by noting the specific products or categories they are seeking. The app will take into account customers’ desired inventory and list, and develop a route displaying the most effective way to retrieve the products.

Consumers can follow the in-store map, powered in a manner similar to a GPS device, as they follow directions via their smartphone or the tablet on the shopping cart handle. After stopping at each aisle, the app will present several notifications containing active promotions.

Users may tap on these to discover visual details about sale items, as well as offer prices. Millennials in particular will likely respond positively to this strategy, as it does not require shoppers to carry around paper coupons or spend time poring over the weekly circular.

Beacon-enabled deals enable consumers to receive optimal instant gratification from mobile devices, and do not call for any previous research prior to the shopping trip.

Carrefour recently saw a 400 percent increase in mobile app engagement thanks to beacons, pointing to the technology’s ability to significantly influence shoppers when paired with mobile coupons in a supermarket setting (see story).

Potential challenges
Beacon technology has experienced a slower adoption rate among many shopping centers and retailers due to the amount of infrastructure needed for a major deployment.

However, grocers have found great value in tapping beacons to market more effectively to guests, meaning it is likely a matter of time before major national chains roll out their own personalized shopping experiences.

“Another reason slowing down the beacon technology adoption in retail is the fact that the current model relies heavily on the retailers own mobile app, which is used mainly by the most loyal customers,” said Bogdan Oros, CEO of Onyx Beacon.

“There is also an important number of people who will not have an app for each retailer and the presence of a generic app on the shopper’ phone compliant with iBeacon technology could enable retailers to get more insights on shopping behavior as well as engage with a bigger number of people.”

Most importantly for marketers, beacons will be able to grab significant information about in-store shopping behavior, leading to insights on customer engagement which can lead to improved strategies for the staff to leverage.

“Context, relevance, engagement, entertainment and accuracy are basic keywords for this new shopping experience and it is the role of a smart marketer to use the technology in a creative manner in order to provide an original, efficient and enjoyable experience for the consumers,” Mr. Oros said. “Imagine a mobile application able to put together the online and offline customer behavior, to gather detailed information about his shopping history, interests, or preferred products and brands.

“Imagine that this mobile application could be integrated with the social networks activity of the customer and could include gamification techniques, in order to transform the ordinary shopping time into an entertaining, profitable and funny moment,” he said.

“We believe that this Carrefour project is just a first step, and we know that all big global retailers are testing and already creating iBeacon-based solutions for their clients. Big steps forward are to be expected in the next period.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York