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Flaunt Beacons, Don’t Hide Them, Says GameStop

Jeff Donaldson, SVP, GameStop Technology Institute gave some potentially game-changing advice at the Place Conference.

Beacons are typically designed to be discreet and retailers often hide or camouflage them in stores so that customer doesn’t even know they’re there; for Jeff Donaldson SVP, GameStop Technology Institute, this is the wrong approach. He feels that beacons should not be kept stowed away in secret, but rather spotlighted by marketers so as to encourage consumer interaction.

“The key is not to be stealthy,” Donaldson told a packed ballroom at the Roosevelt Hotel during his presentation at the Place 2015: The Business Of Location, a conference presented by Opus Research today.

GTI's Donaldson presenting at the Place 2015 Conference
GTI’s Donaldson presenting at the Place 2015 Conference

GTI, the technology insights marketing unit GameStoplaunched in 2014, partnered with Shelfbucks and Gimbal to pilot beacon technology in 36 of the chain’s stores in the summer of 2014. There are plans for the beacon rollout to reach up to 100 by 2014’s end. This past March, the company stated it was beginning to assess the results of the initial trial, which centered solely upon Texas locations, and then to roll out the beacon pilot to other regions of the U.S.

Members of the chain’s PowerUp loyalty program can opt-in to receive push messages when they are within or near a GameStop store. While browsing, the beacons not only send customers mobile offers, but also alert them of how many loyalty points they have, and access data on the consumer so as to suggest the next game they may enjoy. In a sense, the beacons are used to bookmark the consumer’s journey and help them turn the page to make a purchase.

Back November 2014, Charlie Larkin, GameStop’s senior director, Technology Innovation spoke with GeoMarketing about this notion of putting beacons on display, so to speak.

“We didn’t look at beacons as this thing that was [to be] hidden in your store somewhere or as something that would close the loop on whether or not you visited the store and then be able to send you messages; instead, we looked at beacons as something that we could put on the shelf and wrap marketing material around,” Larkin said. “We said to our customers, ‘Hey, come and engage with this beacon’ and, ‘We’re going to offer you more ways to save while shopping at GameStop and while looking for games that you like.’”

It must be pointed out that GameStop, as a retailer that naturally markets to a tech savvy demographic (the very product it revolves around has the word “video” in its description), has a natural advantage when it comes to exhibiting beacons. An apparel retailer like Macy’s or Lord & Taylor, both of which have deployed beacons in their stores, might not be so inclined to say, “Hey, shoppers! Come interact with our cool new beacons!” That would be awkward and probably confusing for consumers.

But Donaldson and Larkin’s argument still stand for non tech-oriented retailers. The message is to not be ashamed of a technology you’ve invested in to create a better shopping experience. Let consumers, particularly those that are loyal to your brand, know that this exists for them. Not only will an open, even excited attitude likely spur consumer engagement, it will help eradicate consumer fears over privacy invasion, especially if they understand off the bat that it’s opt-in. The unknown is always what scares us the most; let beacons be known and, as their name implies, let them shine.