Beacon Technology: Making the Company-Consumer Conversation Longer, Better, Faster, Stronger
October 14, 2014
For businesses considering beacon technology and consumers questioning opting in, one thing is clear: companies and consumers alike are on the fringe of adding a new facet to the already omnichannel approach to customer engagement. Enter this space and participate in a conversation that’s longer, clearer, and, simply put, better. Through this hyper-connected terminal, beacon technology has the power to change the entire landscape of the company-consumer relationship.
Growing up in the world of VHS to DVD to Blu-ray, of Nokia phones to Sidekicks to Blackberries to iPhone 6-Plusses, most of us in Generation Y think we’ve seen it all, but simultaneously know better than to think there isn’t more.
The “more” of today is Beacon technology, an opt-in system of Bluetooth-powered devices that can exchange information between consumers and companies via their smartphones. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) can receive signals from up to 30 meters, allowing beacon localization to flag where you are and what is around you based on triggers from nearby transmitters.
So what? The capabilities that in-store beacon technology brings are both tangible and inconceivable, in-the-now, and ultramodern. This is not your basic GPS. Beacon does not simply provide an isolated look at a customer’s location, but rather pinpoints the convergence of the many factors in play: that precise location, that moment in time, that exact purchasing opportunity. Companies can hone in on a customer’s mobile location to gauge the flow of a store or event, and provide instant information to customers in prime purchasing situations, leveraging this technology to enrich the consumer experience and capitalize on these opportunities. To top it off, Beacon’s incorporation into payment platforms, where customers can pay in-store with the hassle-free touch of a button, has lifted yet another purchasing barrier for the consumer: one less step between consideration and purchase is a win for all.
The diversity of its applications is overwhelming. Beacon has already penetrated a comprehensive array of industries with its wider mobile intelligence – these brands and events have already secured themselves spots in this inevitable beacon technology roll-out:
1. The Deli Meat Staple
Oscar Meyer identifies customers waiting in the (often crowded) deli area, sending them coupons to hopefully sway them from the congested counter to the convenient packaged meats. Busy, savvy, or both, that’s time and money saved for the cold-cut lover.
2. The Neighborhood Go-To
Duane Reade relies on its loyal, coupon-using consumer base, and is now going “green,” identifying customers in store (down to the aisle!) and sending relevant mobile coupons. Standing in the frozen foods section without a coupon? Not for long. Opting in to their system will get you ping-ed with those Hot Pocket discounts almost instantaneously.
3. The Retail Powerhouse
Macy’s, Inc. recently implemented the largest beacon advancement to date – 4,000 Macy’s stores nationwide have incorporated the shopBeacon “omnichannel strategy and technology.” A major innovation in the retail space, customers will never be guessing what’s on the mannequin again.
4. The Friday Night Bar Scene…
A few New York bars have been testing out Dash, an app that allows patrons to check-in and link a bank account to the app so they keep an eye on their tab, tip, and pay. Users close out and leave the venue without ever having to flag down a worker. Gone are the days of waving your card in the air and fighting for the attention of that understaffed bar.
5. …or the all-day-long Pub Crawl
New Yorkers are all too familiar with that time of year when bar-goers flood the streets downtown to take to the bars in Santa costumes. Some red-suit clad revelers make it from bar to bar…and some don’t. Companies such as Beaconcrawl are reaching drunken revelers in their time of need, sending push notifications with directions and drink specials for the next bar.
6. The Jet-Setters
Airlines can also tap into this technology, using Beacon to expedite the boarding process. Virgin Atlantic saw successful results when testing at Heathrow airport by sending its airborne customers boarding passes via the technology. For fliers, the barriers to (literal) entry are coming down.
7. The World of Art
Museums are also hopping onboard this beacon train, with companies like LabWerk offering apps for museum-goers where they can receive information, discounts, and quizzes about the artwork in front of them. (A Tulip-themed attraction called Tulpenland in the Netherlands has already implemented this.) BrainItch Solutions is applying this same concept to the music festival experience. Rock on.
8. Last But Not Least… The Moneymaker
Beacon’s most universally beneficial application has to be the hands-free payments, which has already surfaced with the emergence Paypal Beacon and Apple Pay. Customers pay faster, companies get paid faster, and everyone is happy.
And, just as with much of technology today, the potential applications for beacon technology never do end. Stroll into a Starbucks without your loyalty card in hand, but receive a message that you’re due for that free cup of coffee. Visit the library and get a message that the sequel to that book you borrowed is finally in. Walk into the subway station and get an alert that there are delays BEFORE you swipe in.
When used effectively, Beacon has the ability to provide valuable insight into the consumer’s mindset, giving us a 360-degree view of the target audience. Beacon can not only enhance the customer experience, but also reverse feed this info into the brain of the brand – a grid of numbers, triggers, behaviors, and information that can be translated into analyses useful for executing data-based decisions.
For businesses considering the technology and consumers questioning opting in, one thing is clear: companies and consumers alike are on the fringe of adding a new facet to the already omnichannel approach to customer engagement. Enter this space and participate in a conversation that’s longer, clearer, and, simply put, better. Through this hyper-connected terminal, beacon technology has the power to change the entire landscape of the company-consumer relationship. Now it’s up to companies to think outside the box, take risks, and seize the opportunity, before someone else does.
— Dana Kim
Intern, Quantitative Research