3 Ways to Use Google Physical Web in Retail

The following is a guest post from Cate Trotter of Insider Trends.

Are beacons part of your retail strategy? Are you taking the traditional approach or the Google one? While the majority of beacons used in retail are designed to work with a specific app, Google’s Physical Web is a much more open concept. The main issue with current beacons is that they require customers to download and open a specific app in order to trigger your content. This is a significant barrier to uptake.

Likewise, Forrester Research has reported that smartphone users spend 84% of their time using just five apps. It’s unlikely this includes your retail one. The news isn’t any better from Localytics, with TechCrunch reporting that one in four mobile users only use an app once.

Google uses beacons and its Eddystone protocol to counter this by transmitting URLs that can interact with any smartphone. Customers can scan for URLs in their location and then simply pull down from the top of their screen to interact with them.

Any object can have a beacon embedded in it which means any object, from magazine pages to street signs, can provide content to customers in the near vicinity. It leverages the power of location, something that you, as brick-and-mortar retailers, have in abundance.

With so many possibilities, what are the best ways to use the Physical Web in-store?

Support customer decision-making

The Physical Web is all about interacting with what is near you. This makes it perfect for delivering more information to customers as they browse products in your store. Customers increasingly rely on the option of others when making purchases.

Physical Web beacons can transfer URLs to product reviews or additional information, which can help customers in deciding what to buy. This might include different sizes and colours available for clothing, nutritional information in restaurants, specs for gadgets and tech purchases and much more. You could also use this opportunity to suggest additional complementary items or upsell to a more expensive option.

Combat showrooming

You may, like a lot of retailers, be concerned about showrooming. It’s become increasingly common for customers to visit stores in order to browse, try on or test products before buying them online – usually for a cheaper price. This can be frustrating as the purchase is often ultimately made through a competitor.

The Physical Web gives you a chance to add your own digital links to your in-store environment. Beacons can be placed in products or advertising that transmit URLs directing customers to your website, making it easier for them to complete an online purchase with you.

For big, bulky, expensive items like furniture and TVs, buying online may be preferable to taking the item away then and there. Or it may be the only option for purchasing if there is a wait time. In both cases, transmitting a URL means the customer is taken right to the point of purchase without having to open an app or browse your website from their phone.

You could even use the Physical Web to drive sales online when products are out of stock by beaming the URL to that product on your website. And in order to capture as many orders as possible, you could have a beacon that triggers as people leave the store. This could link to your website in case they didn’t find what they wanted in-store that day.

Provide an experience

The Physical Web lets you enhance the customer experience through the use of digital content. It can help advertising and window displays come to life. It can be used to offer an AI customer service bot when someone enters the store or other content that makes the in-store journey easier. It can even bring up maps to aid navigation and coupons or offers when customers are near promotional items.

Transmitting URLs makes it easier for customers to engage with your brand and storytelling. Providing useful educational content is a good way to make your brand feel useful to customers, which can increase loyalty. One example is using the Physical Web to broadcast links to videos or online tutorials when near products. If a customer sees a tutorial on what can be achieved using certain make-up products then they may decide to buy them.

If you’re yet to take the plunge with beacons, it might be time to consider the Physical Web. By leveraging users’ own smartphones, it dramatically reduces investment and app development costs, while letting you create a mobile-friendly enhancement to in-store retail.

By Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends. Insider Trends is a retail trends consultancy delivering retail safaris in London, New York and Berlin, as well as trend presentations and workshops that help retailers identify what’s next and how to get ahead.