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  • Beacon Technology & the Future/Present State of E-Commerce Retail Sales

    Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are fighting to both win back sales and compete with online-only retailers. For many retailers, such as Walmart, a large part of this fight involves implementing omnichannel retail mechanisms into their business strategies in order to (in Walmart’s words) “build deep digital relationships with customers.” Omnichannel refers to the ability of retailers to use various online channels to communicate with customers in addition to, or instead of, traditional brick and mortar storefronts. The driving idea behind omnichannel is that the use of various available channels and customer touchpoints are synchronized in such a way as to “deliver a unified and consistent – albeit contextualized – customer experience.” On the vanguard of the omnichannel shift are beacons, which have been described as “among the most important new mobile technologies helping real-world merchants win back sales.” Apple, which has been leading in the beacon paradigm with its iBeacon implementation, describes beacons as “the enabling technology for Apple devices to alert apps or websites (which the user has opted into) when someone approaches or leaves a location.” In the retail setting, beacons enable retailers to send consumers timely messages with useful information regarding their products, such as speed checkout processes, personalized offers and where similar products may be found depending on their physical location within or outside of a retail location. Beacons serve to connect and integrate a shopper’s in-store experience with their online shopping experience. In 2015 beacons are expected to “directly influence over $4 billion worth of US retail sales […] at top retailers (.1% of the total), and that number will climb tenfold in 2016.” This paper firstly analyzes beacons in the context of their use and future potential in omnichannel retailing. It goes on to describe the various legal implications and particularly the privacy concerns that loom large for the successful implementation of beacon technology in retail stores