After a tentative start, beacon technology is beginning to show promise. Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, beacons can communicate with nearby mobile devices that have enabled the corresponding brand-specific apps.
In retail, brands can send relevant notifications and coupons to users as they approach products on the shelves. inMarket, the key global player in beacon technology, has already made installations across thousands of US locations through partnerships with brands including Macy’s and American Eagle, and consumers are biting. A ComScore survey found a collective reach of 38 million monthly users , with particular success among ‘millennial mums’. In-store beacon and proximity engagements have also been credited for a 14% increase in ‘basket size’ and an 8% increase in incremental store visits.
Kevin Hunter, inMarket president, feels the technology is just getting into its stride. "We saw a lot of test-and-learn across various industries in beacon tech in 2014 and early 2015," he said. "Now, we are seeing the savviest marketers benefit from hypertargeting and contextual mobile experiences for consumers, both in-store and before she shops."
The product categories reaping the greatest success in 2015 were deli items, over-the-counter medications, beverages and snacks, and inMarket expects its programs to impact a further $7.5 billion of US millennial spending over the lucrative holiday season.
A slow burner
Although proving effective, uptake of beacon technology has not been as rapid as initially predicted. When Apple first released the technology in 2013, independent software consultant Hari Gottipati was quick to become an advocate, but retailers have been slower off the mark. "I go to a lot of malls," says Gottipati, "but I don’t see as many beacons as I expected. It’s very disappointing."
However, start-ups such as Shopkick, inMarket, and Estimote, founded in anticipation of its success, have reason to be hopeful since uptake now appears to be on the rise. Giants Facebook and Google have both announced promising initiatives to drive adoption: Google has developed Eddystone, an open-source beacon software platform, while Facebook offered free branded beacons to select US businesses to place in-store earlier this year.
A range of potential uses
On top of retail promotions, the technology offers opportunities for user data collection (the driving force behind Facebook’s offering) and Kontact.io, a company selling beacons, has found this to be its most popular use case. Sectors that are more experiential by nature also hold potential. London’s Southbank Centre recently recently launched the first phase in a planned 100+ beacon rollout. It will eventually provide users with bespoke content and offers relevant to their specific location within the venue. As the UK’s third most popular visitor attraction, the Southbank Centre’s adoption may well encourage other venues around the country to follow suit.
"We will use the technology not only to help deliver basic information but also as an extension of ways to interact with events happening across the site," said Chris Denton, Director of Marketing and Communications, Southbank Centre.
One way or another, beacon technology seems poised to come into its own in 2016, offering new ways for brands to interact responsively with customers using hyper-local data. censhare is helping Swiss retailer Migros to manage its customer communications across 10 different national regions and in three language versions to provide a truly local service. View our Migros case study to find out more.