Beyond Retail: How Savvy Marketers Can Use Beacons in 2015

March 19, 2015

Today’s consumers shift seamlessly from laptop to mobile to tablet to brick-and-mortar stores in order to view and buy goods and services. And as consumers become more mobile, tracking the customer journey becomes increasingly complex and challenging. Beacon technology offers some exciting new solutions to this problem, in real time.

Beacon technology is a way for brick-and-mortar stores to gather information on customers and communicate with them through the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). BLE is emitted from a beacon and can be picked up unobtrusively by mobile devices and tablets, which can give users the option to opt in. From there, businesses can send push notifications, deliver hyper-specific advertisements, and gather data on their in-store customers.

Retailers have recently utilized beacons in order to gain insights into consumer behavior, as well as to tailor content to their visitors. Macy’s, for example, installed beacons into some of their stores to push discounts and rewards to customers while they shop. Deckers and UGG use beacon technology to send customers information about the products they are looking at, or give suggestions for similar items on sale.

Beacon technology also opens the door for many other industries outside of retail. Airports, museums, and restaurants can all use beacons in their industries—and perhaps their strategies can inspire new ideas for retailers, too.

Beacons for Travel

When traveling to a foreign destination, it can be a challenge to figure out what to do, where to eat, and what to see. Airports in Copenhagen, Shanghai, and Miami are already piloting beacon technology. Some possibilities include allowing flyers to opt-in in order to receive catered content based on characteristics such as their activity preferences, purpose for the trip, length of stay, etc. A business traveler may want to know the best place to take a client out to dinner, while a tourist may just want to see the main attractions. Beacon technology can help catered content reach a specific audience in order to maximize a visitor’s stay and make their trip a satisfying one.

British Airways is using beacons to alert passengers of gate changes, boarding times, and even deliver the wifi password when a traveler enters the airline’s lounge.

Many more airports and airlines are expected to experiment with the technology in the next few years.

Beacons for Museums

Many guests at museums approach their visit in a haphazard manner: they encounter a lot of objects and information that can be difficult to interpret without a guide to lead the way.

Two museums in Wales, the National Slate Museum and the National Roman Legion Museum, have adopted beacon technology to push catered content to their visitors and deliver a better customer experience. Using their own Culture Beacon app, the museums can deliver more customized content than what’s on their walls—offering different text or interactions depending on whether the visitor is a child or an adult.

A perk of beacons versus earlier methods like QR codes is that the content can be pushed at the right time and place, with very little effort required from the visitor. At the Slate Museum, each beacon is associated with a specific landing page that provides multimedia, text, and links for further exploration. The museum also uses beacons in their gift shop and café, delivering the menu and any promotions. A beacon at the museum’s exit even prompts visitors give feedback or make a donation.

Beacon technology can help put exhibits into context by tailoring information to individual visitors depending on characteristics such as age, interests, or language. The use of beacons can also provide valuable data to the museum, including which exhibits are most popular and the amount of time spent at each exhibit. The museums also expect to trim the budget they spend on paper leaflets.

Beacons for Restaurants

Restaurants must constantly attempt to provide better loyalty and customer service than their competition, and this is where beacon technology can be a great asset. If a customer has the restaurant’s app enabled on their mobile device or tablet, information regarding allergies, favorite dishes, etc. can be sent to the restaurant’s staff when the customer walks in the door. Restaurants can also integrate beacon technology with their loyalty program, incentivizing customers to return often or offering rewards to customers when they arrive.

While restaurants have yet to fully adopt beacons to this extent, many are still using the technology to bring customers in the door. Several restaurants in London, for example, are partnered with an online booking app that pushes offers and menus to users who are close. Launched during the London Restaurant Festival in 2014, the app also allows users to check table availability and instantly book a reservation.

A Powerful Channel in the Unified View

Beacon technology creates powerful opportunities beyond the retail industry, and opens up a world of possibilities for forward-thinking businesses in many verticals. Customers can save money and have a smoother buying process, businesses can offer incentives to drive demand, and marketers can utilize the data collected to create effective and efficient campaigns.

Beacon technology is already becoming a valuable channel in the unified view of the customer. With real-time, location-based data linked to a customer’s unique profile, the possibilities for creative marketers are endless.

Signal’s Fuse platform is designed to help businesses and marketers control the data they’d like to collect, merge, and share. Learn more about Signal’s Unified Customer View solution.

Nick Knise

Nick was Signal's marketing intern and is a senior at Northwestern University, where he studies Marketing and Economics. He enjoys good food, great friends, and being active.

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