Beacons that work via Bluetooth low energy (BLE) bring a new dimension to the interaction between businesses and their customers.
Provided a customer has a Bluetooth-enabled smart device able to pick up BLE signals and has the brand's app installed, that business can use beacons to deliver location-based content to consumers when they are near or inside their store.
The iBeacon is Apple's version of beacon technology. As a matter of fact, Apple was the first company to bring beacon technology to the masses. Third-party manufacturers have also come up with beacons that can send iBeacon message to iOS devices.
Since beacons make it easier for stores to share contextual content like offers about special sales or product information delivered to consumers' smartphones while they are near a particular item or display, beacon technology appeals most to businesses and stores with physical locations.
It is worth noting that beacon technology is quite different from other location-based technologies such as GPS. Its precision in locating a mobile device within a fairly narrow circumference is one of the main differentiators. Remember that it does need a smartphone application installed on the customer's device. This makes it particularly powerful in communicating with customers with whom brands already have an existing relationship.
The relevance of beacon technology spans way beyond marketing alone and potentially can be a key ingredient in a customer's shopping experience. The purpose of this article is to understand how beacons can improve the customer experience. And although most people are just learning about beacons, quite a large number of them have been installed across the world. Examples of businesses around the globe that are experimenting with them include big-time brands like Lord & Taylor.
Macy's has also not been left behind, as they are also using beacons to connect with customers. When you hear of popular brands experimenting with iBeacons, other retailers should be tempted to test the waters, too. After all, every serious entrepreneur in this digital era has learned the importance of being nimble and forward thinking.
Consumers have seemed to welcome beacon technology as well. They use it to enhance their in-store shopping experience. In fact, roughly half of American adults already use their smartphones in stores. Examples of shopping experiences enhanced by beacons might include:
-A customer is browsing in the electronics section of a brick-and-mortar store and receives a notification on their smartphone offering a coupon for electronics.
-A shopper who returns to a shop receives a personalized offer based on his or her previous purchase.
- A shopper in a grocery store receives a delicious recipe idea when by a certain product that utilizes that product as an ingredient.
Can you improve your customer's experience with beacons?
Despite the excitement around beacon technology, many businesses, especially small businesses have not had the opportunity to reap the benefits of beacons. Below is information on how this technology works and can benefits businesses. This way, you will be able to decide if this new technology is right for you and your businesses.
Beacon technology is mainly used to communicate with shoppers and provide proximity marketing such as coupons, contactless payments and indoor navigation. Once beacons are installed in a store, customers will have to download the store's app in order to be contacted through Bluetooth. Store owners must remember that they will need to integrate the mobile app with the beacons. In other words, brands must have a mobile application with which the beacon can communicate and interact. Contextual notifications, indoor navigation and other location-based elements can all be added to the business app.
With that said, as an online marketer, it is very vital to evaluate which marketing techniques promote customer loyalty and profit a business. If they use social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to build their customer base, it is important to assess whether they want customers to post photos on social media through the beacon app. Retailers can even prompt shoppers to snap and tag photos while shopping.
If customer reviews are critical to the success of a business, marketers may want to send push notifications to customers as soon as they checkout, requesting them to review their shopping experience. After which retailers could publicize those reviews on social media.
Indoor navigation with Bluetooth Beacons is a powerful application of the technology. GPS navigation does not work well in many indoor places. Also, navigation which makes use of Wi-Fi is not very accurate. Therefore, indoor navigation via beacon can be helpful in such situations. Popular places of use include: stadiums (see below), malls and airports. Beacons go beyond just retail stores.
While beacons come with many advantages, there are a few shortcomings. Due to their limited range, this technology is not going to be useful to drive customers to your shop unless a shop is located in a densely populated area, such as a mall. They often work best if one has heavy foot traffic close to his or her store. For this reason, brands might want to go for GPS technology if their primary marketing goal is to generate more traffic or attract more potential customers into the store.
Beacons can help marketers understand the wants and needs of your customers. The challenge facing retailers is how to deploy beacons and make the most of this technology by engaging with shoppers in the most efficient and profitable way. Before one tries to implement beacons, they must first understand the needs of their customers. Why do shoppers visit their store? Are they looking for deals or is the overall customer experience their primary motivator? Knowing the needs of customers will inform brands how to deploy beacons. Beacon technology can only succeed when they meet customers' needs. In addition, marketers need to be sure the beacon can transmit the right product information as well as offers at the right time, in a manner that does not annoy or irritate.
Beacons, in general, are a cost-effective and versatile location-based marketing technique that most retailers should consider deploying to promote their sales. Since they are already familiar to customers and many big brands are making use of beacons, you won't have any problem introducing them to people who enter your store. But make sure you know how to deploy your beacons, as going in naively could easily sink your effort.
Kimber Johnson is the co-founder of ASPEN App Design, which is a sister company of Vanity Point and Pacific App Design. He has worked within the Web development, graphics design, mobile application development, marketing and advertising fields for over 17 years.