Mothercare to trial beacons in store from early 2015

Mothercare plans to trial beacon technology from early 2015 to engage with customers, rather than for promotional messages.

Pregnancy and baby equipment retailer Mothercare plans to trial beacon technology from early 2015 to engage with customers, rather than for promotional messages.

Speaking at the Demandware user conference in Barcelona, mobile commerce manager at Mothercare Harpinder Singh said the retailer wants to start a beacon trial in some of its 200 stores in 2015, due to the low cost of implementation.

The company already has a suite of smartphone applications and store managers are seeing more people enter stores holding a mobile device.

But Singh said privacy is a top priority for the retailer, as it wouldn’t want to alienate concerned customers. 

The retailer has already had customers worried about an innocent feature in its mobile app which allows users to personalise it with photos of their children. However, with Apple’s iOS a message alerts customers when they download the app informing them it needs access to their photos.

“The customer feels exposed,” said Singh, before describing how customer service had received emails from concerned parents asking why Mothercare would want photos of their children.

Singh said the Mothercare team try to relieve fears as soon as possible by replying within 24 hours, but there isn’t a lot more they can do. 

Because of that example, when it comes to beacons the retailer will trial the new technology slowly and allow customers time to get used to it, rather than plying them with offers and using their location data for invasive promotions.

Singh said on average 44% of people walk into a store with their Bluetooth – which is needed for beacon technology to engage with customers – switched on, but he said if retailers abuse it, customers will turn it off and that figure will drop to 20%.

He said the success of a technology comes down to how the retailer uses it.

Singh also said he would sooner take the lead from Tesco and John Lewis – which are trialing beacons – to provide information and added value.

He described how John Lewis is using the technology to provide a better service to its click-and-collect users by alerting staff that a customer has entered a store so they can prepare an order quicker.

“It’s helping the customer, rather than pushing,” said Singh. “We’d probably go with the John Lewis service model – trying to make the in-store journey better.”

“We don’t want it to feel like a brand-new, scary technology – but more like when you walk into an Apple Store and you’ve been greeted and welcomed,” he added.

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