Article

Asena Atilla Saunders
Asena Atilla Saunders 9 March 2017
Categories Advertising, Technology

Beacons and Proximity Marketing: All You Need to Know

Among the strategies mobile marketers can use to target users is proximity marketing based on the use of Beacon devices. This is now becoming more and more popular. Beacons are proving crucial to help retailers drive foot traffic to their stores, increase conversion rates and sales volume. But what exactly are Beacons and how do they work?

The future of mobile marketing relies on personalised campaigns. The more you get to know your users and target them according to specific parameters, like their demographics, in app behaviour and location, the quicker your app user base will grow alongside engagement and retention.

Location based campaigns are especially relevant for retailers, because these campaigns deliver informative messages at the right time, such as when users are close to the store, and drive footfall.

Among the strategies mobile marketers can use to target users is proximity marketing based on the use of Beacon devices. This is now becoming more and more popular. Beacons are proving crucial to help retailers drive foot traffic to their stores, increase conversion rates and sales volume. But what exactly are Beacons and how do they work?

Beacon devices: an overview

Beacons are small devices that send Bluetooth Low Energy signals (BLE)  to smartphones and tablets nearby. Once emitted, these one way radio waves reach the phones in the vicinity of the Beacon device and interact with the mobile applications installed on those phones. That means that when the signal from a Beacon reaches a phone, it triggers specific actions, like location-based notifications, in that phone’s mobile apps. Beacons don’t send notifications themselves. What they really do is send a piece of geographic information, a unique identifier, to the mobile applications within their range (about 50 metres).

The unique identifier, which is different for every beacon, contains three types of data: information about the beacon vendor; information about a certain location, such as a store location; information about a specific subregion within a store, such as a store department. To be able to receive the signal from a beacon, a mobile app needs to be previously enabled to communicate with it. That means the unique identifier of a specific beacon has to be included in that mobile application code.

Moreover, the interaction between a mobile phone and a beacon device is not automatic. It requires users to enable the Bluetooth device on their phones and to opt in to receive signals from Beacons for a specific mobile application.

Finally, iOS and Android platforms interact with Beacons in a different way. The reason behind this is that Apple implemented an iBeacon protocol which enables iPhones and iPads (running the latest version of iOS7) to constantly scan for Beacon devices in their proximity. When a beacon is detected, it can automatically ‘talk’ to the mobile applications installed on those Apple devices, even if those apps are closed and not running. Due to the iBeacon protocol, we refer to such Beacons as iBeacons. On the other hand, Android platforms don’t have such a protocol, so Android apps need to be running on the phone, at least in the background, to receive signals from Beacon devices in their proximity.

Beacons can emit BLE signals for up to 5 years and have very little cost (a few dollars each).

Proximity marketing: the use of Beacon technology to provide a location based experience

As highlighted by this article, ‘total BLE Beacon shipments will comfortably exceed 400 million units in 2020’. The reason behind this impressive growth trend is that a wide range of new marketing opportunities are now accessible, and very promising, thanks to Beacons. Retailers are more and more keen to use these devices in their marketing strategies to make sure their customers receive a deeply personalized and time relevant user experience. Proximity marketing, based on the use of Beacon devices, is the future of mobile marketing. Let’s have a look at the main Beacon-based opportunities for retailers.

Location-based campaigns

Beacons can trigger location-based notifications in specific apps on customers phones. These notifications might inform customers, in a personalized way, about special promotions, discounts or new products available within the store where the beacons are placed. Location-based notifications can be used to invite customers to enter a nearby store, or to welcome them when they enter the store, or to greet them when they leave by providing a discount or a special treat to encourage them to come back. All these strategies are very powerful tactics to drive foot traffic to retail stores and increase their conversion rates and sales volume. Also, this use of Beacons can help retailers attract users to their apps, retain those users, and increase engagement on those apps.

Data collection

By interacting with the mobile applications installed on smartphones and tablets within their range, Beacons can help retailers track users behaviours and collect relevant data about users preferences and actions. This data is a powerful source of information for retailers because they can use it to re-target customers with even more personalised campaigns.

Beacons with free access

Retailers could enable developers and app owners to have free access to their beacons in order to increase foot traffic to their store. For example, mobile applications about food and dieting could send location-based notifications to users within the range of a specific beacon and encourage them to enter the store and buy what they need for their food plans.

Frank Viljoen
Frank Viljoen

Nice article, but as these Beacons have been around since late 2012, they have been modified adapted with added Intel for more dynamic use, rather than a simple one way broadcast. The important thing for marketers to understand here is the ability to reach users on a hyper local level - the content of the experience to be delivered is totally up to them. Too many creatives, advertisers and marketers still don't appear to grasp how Beacons could/should be used, which in turn has had an adverse affect on the technology over time. Used incorrectly the campaign will fail dismally and the tech will be blamed! Used wisely, Beacons are the most powerful bit of marketing tech that could transform not only location based marketing services but also provide an immense amount of localised information. Beacons have unfortunately been abused, creating spam and causing unwanted interference on a users most personal item, the mobile phone. Beware of upsetting the consumer.

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