Chatswood Chase reveals customer insights from iBeacon trial

Sydney-based retail mall reveals why it is expanding its investment into the geolocation technology as a way of gleaning better customer data and insight

Adopting iBeacon technology across Chatswood Chase mall is opening the door to better customer engagement thanks to its combination of data insight and real-time, targeted communication.

Speaking at the first BI and Analytics Lab at the ADMA Global Forum this week, Emma Giammarco, Chatswood Chase Sydney’s marketing manager, said investing in the geolocation technology was a response to ever-higher competition from retail complexes in surrounding areas, as well as the desire to better understand and improve how consumers interacted with retailers and brands across the mall.

The Colonial First State-owned property has 12.1 million annual visitors but historically hasn’t had the ability to see how customers interact and move around the complex once they’re onsite.

“We know brands who are early adopters of new technology have considerably more engaged customers than brands who are not,” Giammarco told attendees. iBeacon also provided an ability to increase data acquisition around new and current customer behaviour, shine a light on visitor flow and help increase traffic to under-performing areas of the mall, and drive new types of engagement between customers and retailers in a contextual, real-time way, she said.

“Our main goal is to drive traffic and sales for our retailers. We want to use data to drive customers and retailers while connecting with customers in a way they want and that provides competitive advantage,” Giammarco said.

The first phase of Chatswood Chase’s iBeacon pilot was with existing customers and based on delivering weekly offers from participating retailers.

Because the mall doesn’t have a dedicated mobile app, Passbook was the mechanism used to provide offers and communicate to mobiles. While it is a relatively new app in Australia, Passbook is a cross-platform app and offers a range of benefits, said Andrew Lowe, managing director of Pointpal Australia, the mobile rewards provider who partnered with Chatswood Chase.

Using Passbook meant the property could meet its project rollout timeframe of just 20 days and offer a more “native mobile experience”, he said.

“We wanted to offer a one-click experience and we knew adoption would too long for an app,” he said.

“The good thing is we can tie iBeacon data to the Passbook and are able to message directly to a consumer’s phone.”

Key objectives of the first pilot were to learn more about shopper behaviour and experiences, engage on a one-to-one basis and build stronger relationships with the retailer, validate the fact that iBeacons could drive foot traffic, and assess customer appetite for this kind of mobile technology.

Lowe said the approach was very much “test and learn”.

“This was not tied to a financial KPI initially but to the KPI of experience,” he explained. “Some of these trials are actually about putting customers first, not the business.

“We wanted to avoid apathy too – customers choose not to download yet another branded app or can’t remember their App Store password, and we miss out on that engagement. This is very easy for the customer.”

The initial trial was limited to the iOS platform and the first 100 customers who applied to participate in the program via an EDM. To download Passbook, consumers simply clicked on a link in the email, which also acted as the privacy opt-in.

Once on-board, customers were reminded on their mobile of weekly offers sent via EDM campaigns, and asked to check-in with retailers as they redeemed offers. Retailers were given iPad devices to scan in the QR code that appeared in a customer’s Passbook, closing the data loop. As an incentive, customers who checked in entered in a draw to win a $1000 gift voucher.

“In normal circumstances, retailers would have a bar scanner capable of reading straight from the phone screen,” Lowe continued. “That is holding a lot of this technology back. Retailers are only just starting to upgrade to 2D scanners, even though they’re only a few hundred dollars.”

Read more: SurveyMonkey looks to provide the 'why' in analytics

Nevertheless, the trial results confirmed the importance of iBeacons, Giammarco said. As well as boosting traffic in retailers, customers showed they were willing to engage with the mobile offers. Chatswood Chase also gained valuable insight into the customer journey around the property with minimal investment, as well as data on whether customers were new or returning users.

Related: Apple knows where shoppers are in its stores with national iBeacon rollout

The activation rate was 7 per cent with the email channel, and as a new offer was made each week, this increased, Giammarco said. The most popular offer was a free piece of cake with any coffee purchase, which recorded a redemption rate of 32 per cent.

A post-trial customer survey also showed 91 per cent found the mobile trial to be a positive experience, and 77 per cent thought activation was easy. There were no issues with privacy, an initial concern for Chatswood Chase. This was despite the fact that 68 per cent hadn’t used Passbook before.

Like any trial, plenty of lessons were learnt, too. A big one, Lowe said, was how much data the property can gather from customers, and when.

“We tried to gather more data points as they downloaded Passbook but that just confused people,” he said. “We need to get Passbook on the phone first, then over time ask for more information, such as a phone number.”

In addition, the activation process will be further simplified, and more education needs to be done with customers on the alerts to their mobile phones, Giammarco said.

Chatswood Chase is now finalising phase two of the project, which will see the offer extended to Android-based devices. Giammarco said it also plans to offer targeted messages from each of the individual Beacon devices tied to specific retailers in those areas of the mall, as well as at specific times of the day.

Longer term, it hopes to use the data collected on customers to make even more targeted offers based on specific segments, such as 'parents'.

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