BLE is a developing technology, and retailers are still getting accustomed to how best to use it. Although some stores have successfully implemented BLE beacons and used them to improve the customer experience, many stores are finding that unforeseen problems are cutting into their results.
BLE beacons cost between $20 and $40, depending on specifications. Often, BLE implementation plans involve installing a network of beacons to cover the entrance, various departments, and sales counters. Retailers looking to use BLE-enabled point-of-sale systems will face additional costs to add BLE functionality to existing POS systems or to install new BLE-enabled POS systems.
Additionally, there is the cost of developing and supporting an app that allows consumers to use your BLE beacon network. Retailers sometimes underestimate the usefulness and expense of app development and support, but apps are a critical component in the BLE-enabled business model. Without them, consumers gain no benefits, and the store itself loses money because of the investment in the network. Remember that apps take time to create and test before they are read for public release; both time and monetary costs can be reduced by partnering with a company or group that has an existing app and updating that app to integrate new functionality.
Equally pressing is the need for consumer adoption of BLE apps and technology on a wide scale. With mass adoption comes greater return on investment because there are more individuals to influence. Retailers need to demonstrate the value of their apps to consumers in order to encourage both downloads and actual usage.
Remember that the consumer only really experiences the BLE program through the app. Customers don’t need to understand or see the logistical aspects, so marketing resources should be allocated to presenting the app and convincing customers that it is valuable enough to download and use.
Another challenge is getting consumers to use the app once they have downloaded it. iOS 7 devices have iBeacon protocols that automatically launch or wake apps when a relevant BLE signal is detected, but other mobile operating systems currently require users to open their apps manually and allow them to run in the background in order to detect BLE signals.
The benefit to iOS 7 systems for retailers is that they automatically engage the user regardless of whether the app is open or not. However, Android and other non-iOS users will need to be encouraged to open their apps in order to receive benefits.
Beyond that, customers must feel that actually using the app improves their experience. Generally, this means adding value by empowering them to do things they couldn’t previously do or by making it easier for them to do things they could already do.
Many retailers may find it difficult to properly support apps from development to usage. Major brands can outsource the work or hire an in-house team for the project, but small stores are often forced to outsource due to cost. Regardless of which service model retailers choose, they have to provide proper support for the app just as they would with a website.