American Marketer


Beacons and Apple Pay deliver stepped-up shopping experience

November 7, 2014

Timothy Perfitt is founder/CEO of Twocanoes Software and Twocanoes Labs Timothy Perfitt is founder/CEO of Twocanoes Software and Twocanoes Labs


By Timothy Perfitt

You have got cash and credit cards in your wallet. And several loyalty cards. Or maybe those are fanned out on your key ring. Do not forget the coupons: where did you stash those again? Seriously, there must be a better way.

With the combination of iBeacons and Apple Pay, there is – finally – a more sensible way to shop.

More light on beacons
Mobile store applications and mobile pass programs let us put loyalty programs and coupons where they belong: on our phones. No more plastic cards, key tags and half-stamped buy-10-get-1-free cards cluttering up wallets and handbags. Simply bring up the app to see current offers and your loyalty points.

Better yet, if the store is beacon-enabled, a message on your lock screen will remind you to take advantage of discounts or points when you enter the checkout area.

Your phone is already in your hand, so why not pay for your goods with it?

With token technology, fingerprint security and major bank partners, Apple may have finally cracked the mobile pay code. You hold your phone next to the terminal, touch your thumb or finger for authentication, and pay with a token that cannot be used if stolen by hackers.

Together, iBeacons and Apple Pay are a powerful combination for retailers and shoppers.

By recognizing the store’s app as they arrive in the store, walk into a department or enter the checkout area and connect to back-end systems to send personalized messages to the lock screen, beacons represent a substantial opportunity for retailers.

A beacon placed at the entrance triggers a greeting thanking you for coming. Large stores can offer a digital store map that always shows your location.

If you recently added goods to your online cart, the message could show those items’ locations.

The app could even let you create a digital shopping list that triggers a map showing the fastest route to those items.

Inside the store, beacons help in myriad ways.

Use the store app to request for help from someone in the department or get product information based on your location.

Maybe you have purchased diapers in the past and are happy to see a discount offer on your favorite brand as you walk into the baby section.

If an item you frequently purchase is out of stock, a nearby beacon could trigger a message saying, “Would like to be notified when it’s back in stock or purchase it now online for delivery to your home?”

Pacing it
As with any communication tool, retailers must use restraint.

Too many promotional offers, especially those not related to products or brands that the customer buys may prompt them to uninstall the app.

Using buyer history to trigger messages is the key: 20 percent off an item that a customer has purchased several times in the past is seen as helpful rather than annoying.

Similarly, an alert can be triggered when a customer walks near an item for which she recently downloaded a digital coupon.

Beacons promise another, more subtle benefit for retailers – the rich data available from a micro-location system.

Shoppers all pulling up a map of the store as they enter? Maybe it is time to invest in additional way-finding signage. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Sophisticated analyses could show the best place for high-end products, clearance merchandise or seasonal items.

And because shoppers must opt-in by downloading a store app or pass to receive messages, beacons represent a terrific opportunity to build trusting relationships with customers.

BY TYING together loyalty programs with discount programs, in-store purchasing and online purchasing, retailers can use what they have learned about customers to improve their experience from the moment they walk in to the moment they pay –with their smartphone, of course.

Timothy Perfitt is founder/CEO of Twocanoes Software Inc. and Twocanoes Labs LLC, Naperville, IL. Reach him at