July 3, 2014, 11:48 AM

Retailers have more options for communicating with store shoppers via their phones

A partnership between Swirl and Motorola will make easier beacon roll-outs for large retailers as well as provide retailers with more beacon hardware and software options.

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Nearly one-third of consumers use their smartphones to look for offers and deals while shopping in bricks-and-mortar retail stores, according to a survey from Marketing Land and SurveyMonkey. Recognizing that, operators of retail stores are anxious to reach those consumers via their smartphones.

One way they do that is with beacons, small pieces of hardware that can pinpoint a consumer’s location inside a physical store so that retailers can make offers and provide information based on the shopper’s location. For example, a retailer could send a link to nail polish reviews  to a shopper is standing in front of a nail polish display.

Installing a few beacons inside one store location is a manageable task, but installing beacons across thousands of store locations for a large retailer is a lot of work, says Rob Murphy, vice president of marketing at Swirl, a company that provides beacon technology to such retailers as Alex and Ani, Kenneth Cole and Timberland.

In order to prepare for large-scale rollouts, Swirl announced a partnership with Motorola Solutions Inc. “Motorola already has an established reputation in retail,” Murphy says. “To partner with them is a great opportunity for us and them to bring [beacon technology] to large retailers.”

Swirl and Motorola will jointly sell Swirl’s beacon mobile marketing software as a stand-alone product as well as part of a package that includes Motorola MPact, platform system that uses both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology to locate consumers in indoor locations and enable two-way communication with them.

Motorola announced in May its own line of beacons, called Smart Beacons—which use Bluetooth technology. Swirl manufacturers its own beacons. One aspect of the partnership is that Swirl is opening up its marketing platform to recognize the beacons manufactured by Motorola, while Motorola’s platform will recognize Swirl beacons.

Swirl’s marketing software allows retailers to interact with consumers once the beacon technology locates them within the retailer’s store. Examples of interactions include sending consumers discount offers while they’re standing in front of specific displays or alerting them to reviews about specific products. Initial tests with retailers found 75% of consumers who received notifications in stores opened them. Consumers also engage with those notifications, Murphy says. Retailers who provided offers to consumers saw a 35% conversion rate on those offers.

Despite those results, most consumers say they don’t want to be tracked inside stores. 77% of U.S. adults with smartphones do not want retailers tracking those smartphones when they are in retailers' stores, a survey by OpinionLab finds. 

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