By Staff Reports
(DGIwire) – Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology is an effective way for marketers to virtually communicate with customers in physical locations, provided the right complementary technology is in place: an efficient platform through which to manage digital content and an app on customers’ smart devices to receive that content. Retailers and other businesses can use beacons to trigger location-based features on customers’ smartphone apps, including targeted coupons, store maps and hands-free payments—and that’s just for starters. According to CIO.com, 3.9 million beacons shipped globally in 2015 and industry analysts project the types of enterprises that adopt the technology will continue to diversify.
Here are five basic things to know about beacons:
- What exactly is a beacon? A beacon is a small wireless device that constantly broadcasts radio signals via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to nearby devices, usually smartphones and tablets. The technology is fascinating alone, but it requires additional technology to bring the user value. Patricia de la Mota, Vice President of Sales & Operations for Digital Social Retail, a New York-based proximity marketing technology company, describes it well: “Think of a beacon as a literal beacon, i.e., a lighthouse. Same way all a lighthouse does is emit light, all a beacon does is emit a radio signal. It takes someone putting an organized message of some sort into that stream—like we do with our beacon management platform, Social Retail®—for valuable information to be transmitted. Easily controlling the messaging and getting valuable data back is where things get really interesting for business owners and consumers alike.”
- What other technology is necessary for effective beacon deployment? A smart device app of some sort to receive mobile messaging triggered by a beacon, and at least one content manager to control the release of that messaging.
- Who’s leading beacon technology? Apple with its iBeacon and Google with its Eddystone, released in 2013 and 2015 respectively. Both require other technology as described above. The main consumer-facing differences are that iBeacons work with loyalty apps or other specifically purposed apps as the receiver, and Eddystones work with web browsers (Chrome, Physical Web) that receive and influence the incoming messaging to the target device. Both types of beacon technologies benefit from content management systems like the cloud-based proximity marketing platform Social Retail®.
- Why should brick-and-mortar retailers and other organizations use beacons?Proximity marketing data from beacons can provide a vast array of insights about customers, for example, how long they spend in a store and in which aisles. Beacons can also boost customer loyalty by rewarding transactions and other activities. Coupled with special offers and promotions, beacons can help increase sales of merchandise, food, beverages and more.
- What’s next in beacon technology development? Look for innovations that will make beacon-triggered messaging increasingly relevant to the consumer, easier to disseminate for the business owner, and result in more accurate data across a broader spectrum while adhering to privacy laws.
Advances in beacon technology—and a greater appreciation of how beacons can benefit a range of businesses and their customers—have contributed to make them a compelling facet of innovation in marketing today.