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News release


Technology Overload Leads to Better Tools for Retail Customer Engagement

JLL Retail expects BLE and NFC technologies to top the charts of consumer engagement tools in 2014

LAS VEGAS, May 20, 2014 – In a world of technological advancements that can lead to a serious case of consumer information overload, two mobile technologies are emerging as the front-runners in the race to successful shopper engagement: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also known as Beacons, and Near-field communications (NFC). Both technologies are capitalizing on emerging consumer behaviors that includes a dramatic uptick in the amount of consumers who stay connected to the internet while they shop in brick-and-mortar stores, which has doubled since 2013.[i]   

JLL Retail experts Michael Hirschfeld and Aaron Ahlburn, speaking today in the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Coca-Cola Happiness Lounge in Las Vegas, explore how retailers and shopping center owners, who are seeking ways to increase in-store sales, customer attraction and retention,  can use a combination of mobile technologies like BLE and NFC to achieve different objectives within their retail space.  

Beacons Electronically Boost Retail Sales Directly to the In-Store Customer
BLE, or Beacons, pinpoint where shoppers are in a store, how long they have been in a particular location and how often they visit. If included in a retailer’s merchandising strategy, and placed throughout the store as digital touch points on shelves, signs and product displays, Beacons can match shopper needs to goods. The ability to track the approximate location of a specific shopper in a store opens up a host of possibilities for bricks and mortar retailers.

“Being able to communicate directly with consumers the instant as they walk past an item is a vital advancement for retailers. It’s what will set using Beacons apart from traditional couponing methods, there’s no bargain hunt involved it’s all a triggered push method,” said Michael Hirschfeld, SVP of JLL’s National Retail Tenant Services group. “We expect Beacons to become widely used, particularly in grocery stores and fast-fashion retailers. Imagine walking past a box of pasta and instantly your phone buzzes with a coupon and a recipe for a 10-minute dinner, suddenly something you hadn’t considered buying makes sense.” 

NFC and Barcode Technology Makes Checkout Simple 
While Beacons can bring an idea about a need for a particular good directly to a consumer, it is NFC technologies that simplify the transaction at the point of sale. NFC is an ultra-short range wireless communication technology that enables one-to-one communication between devices. What makes NFC technology different is that it’s based around a shopper’s decision to streamline payment by waving their smartphones in front of an NFC-enabled reader. While NFC technologies have been used effectively globally, few U.S. retailers have had adopted it given the technology is a large investment for both smartphone manufacturers and retailers. Alternately, many retailers are using barcodes until NFC adoption becomes widespread.   

“Mobile payment technology has come a long way in the few short years it’s been on the market, and we expect that NFC payment and barcodes to continue to lead the pack,” added Aaron Ahlburn,  Director of Retail and Industrial Research at JLL. “This technology allows consumers to bypass the checkout line, and makes it easy for a store associate to check them out anywhere. That’s huge for retailers trying to compete in today’s fast paced world.”

While there are distinct advantages to BLE and NFC technology, neither one is a one-size fits all application. Retailers and shopping centers will need to examine how these tech tools can fit into their overall customer engagement strategy and deploy them where they best fit the company’s goals. If used correctly, these digital touch points will incentivize shoppers to head to a store and may ultimately combat loss of sales to online merchants.

“While use of technology is crucial to creating a competitive advantage, and getting in front of these technologies can ultimately lead to downstream success, don’t count out the need for staffing just yet; customer interaction is still vital and essential to the selling experience. The big challenge for retailers is going to be melding technology and traditional methods,” added Ahlburn. “We expect a trial and error period during the next few years, as many retailers try to figure out the balancing act of engagement opportunity against consumer privacy.”

JLL’s Retail Group serves as the industry’s leader in retail real estate services. The firm’s more than 850 dedicated retail experts in the Americas partner with investors and occupiers around the globe to support and shape investment and site selection strategies. Its retail specialists provide independent and expert advice to clients, backed by industry-leading research that delivers maximum value throughout the entire lifecycle of an asset or lease. The firm has more than 80 retail brokerage experts spanning 20 major markets, representing more than 100 retail clients. As the largest third party retail property manager in the United States, JLL’s retail portfolio has 305 centers, totaling 65.7 million square feet under management in regional malls, lifestyle centers, grocery-anchored centers, power centers, central business districts, transportation facilities and mixed-use projects.

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About JLL
JLL (NYSE:JLL) is a professional services and investment management firm offering specialized real estate services to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying and investing in real estate. With annual revenue of $4 billion, JLL operates in 75 countries worldwide. On behalf of its clients, the firm provides management and real estate outsourcing services for a property portfolio of 3 billion square feet and completed $99 billion in sales, acquisitions and finance transactions in 2013. Its investment management business, LaSalle Investment Management, has $47.6 billion of real estate assets under management. For further information, visit​