Beaconless Proximity – Is It The Next Retail Trend?

Justina Kostinaite By Justina Kostinaite

Peer-to-peer (p2p) proximity could possibly make every retailer’s life much easier. Why? Because it solves several major issues the existing location-based technologies have. In other words: no beacon hardware maintenance or battery draining GPS; fine-needle accuracy and uninterrupted experience indoors, outdoors & under ground. Will p2p proximity set a new benchmark for a hyper-contextualized shopping experience and rule out the competition? We’re about to find out.

Customer engagement technologies have become accessible and affordable to businesses of all sizes. Even the smallest of brick and mortar businesses run mobile apps, which provide both a seller and a consumer with invaluable contextual information on the journey to purchase.

As a recent Forrester report claimed, “context is king when delivering modern mobile experiences”. So far, those contextual in-app experiences have mostly been served by beacons and, in some cases, GPS technologies. However, last-mile connectivity seems to be quite a challenge: beacons require heavy hardware maintenance, GPS is inaccurate indoors and actively drains the battery.

p2p proximity could replace these underperforming technologies and provide retailers with a much cheaper, easier setup and a more accurate solution to leverage proximity. Customers would benefit by receiving relevant content and ultimately personalized services.

“Hey Ann, step inside and try our new spring arrivals, the coffee is on us.”

Personalized content

Imagine, if every smart device in the store would operate as a beacon and could discover, range, and exchange contextual proximity content with other devices nearby. This would allow retailers to “connect the dots” and better understand online-to-offline consumer behavior, thus providing customers with a more fluent and tailor-made shopping experience in the physical world.

Such functionality would enable staff to engage with in-store customers and offer deals which fit them the best. For example, America’s second largest pharmacy store – Walgreens, instead of using beacons, could integrate p2p proximity in their retail app. This technology would let staff manage offers right from their in-store devices! Delivering discounts, coupons, and vouchers to the visitors would become much faster, easier, more personal and better targeted – based on physical proximity and contextual user profile.

By implementing p2p proximity in their retail apps, stores of all sizes could save a substantial amount of money, and gain valuable insights at the same time. It wouldn’t be necessary to deploy thousands of beacons and dedicate time to their maintenance. Customers could also be served with the best-tailored deals concerning the products they care about.

Immediate on-site assistance

p2p proximity could enable seamless customer interaction with staff in-store. Waitrose – the UK-based supermarket chain – already implemented a beacon-enabled app feature allowing consumers to call for assistance (Beaconstack, 2016). p2p proximity would greatly optimize such a service.

Instead of processing the request over beacons, retailer’s apps could forward their customer’s inquiries directly to a staff assistant who would be in closest proximity. This direct peer-to-peer communication would save time and enable the fastest service possible.

Proximity technology is much cheaper than beacons and doesn’t require any hardware deployment. It is not bound to a certain location and connects devices directly peer to peer. p2p proximity also proves to be much more accurate than GPS as it works indoors, outdoors and underground and is very battery friendly.

“Lewis is approaching the store. Prepare his package in advance!”

100% optimized delivery

Purchasing goods online and collecting them at brick and mortar shops is not a novelty, However, the concept could be approached from a novel point of view. Grocery store Woolworths has already offered their “click and collect” app feature enabling consumers to place the order online and collect it in store (PowerRetail, 2016). p2p proximity could make it much faster.

Right now, in order to collect the package, customers have to prove their identity and wait till staff finds the needed parcel. Think about a future where personnel could know who is approaching the store beforehand and prepare delivery in advance. In such way, customers would be identified before they arrive and would be served with an immediate delivery.

Consumer-to-consumer interactions

Proximity could also turn shopping into an entertaining experience and enable consumer-to-consumer (c2c) interactions. For example, Macy’s department store has already tried out an incentive campaign, encouraging customers to compete with one another in order to win 1 million gift codes (Beaconstack, 2016).

With peer-to-peer proximity technology integrated in the Macy’s app, it would be possible to extend this gamified experience to the out-of-the-store world. Customers could interact anywhere be it indoors, outdoors or underground. They would only have to be in proximity to each other.

This very same model could serve retailers by enabling c2c interactions such as real-time feedback and recommendations. People would be able to see nearby consumer’s references about desired products or services and discover what is trendy right now, right here.

The next BIG trend

p2p proximity challenges the conventional thinking around beacons and GPS by offering an alternative option that is more cost efficient and effective. It’s the only proximity technology to serve hyper contextualized experience directly peer-to-peer without requiring any third party hardware. Proximity technology is easy to set up and scale for businesses of all sizes and provides with infinite possibilities of approaching mobile consumers in the physical environment.


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  3. Proxbook. (2016). PROXIMITY MARKETING IN RETAIL. Unacast.
  4. Thumm, J. (2016). Woolworths Trials Commuter Click and Collect. Retrieved 22nd Mar, 2017, from