Business Strategy

What the heck is a beacon?

Maybe you’ve heard of them, maybe you haven’t. Beacons are little gadgets that have been around for a couple years but are just now starting to get serious market traction. With the launch of “consumer-friendly” beacons like the ones from Estimote, these little devices are now being marketed directly at the companies that can benefit from them.

What does a beacon do?

A beacon uses low-energy Bluetooth to communicate with mobile devices within a specific range that have the matching app installed. The batteries last for a year or longer, and the beacons themselves are usually small enough that they can be easily concealed. Beacons can trigger a push notification to appear on the user’s device with information that is unique to their exact location or deliver certain content if the user has the app open. This makes them highly valuable to any company that has a customer in a physical location while making a buying decision. Shoppers shop on mobile all the time, so why not move the mobile experience to in-store shopping as well?

What limitations are there on beacons?

Beacons come with some strings attached, though. They only work if the user downloads the corresponding app and subsequently grants it permission to send push notifications. The user must also have their device’s Bluetooth function turned on. Current consumers more frequently leave Bluetooth on all the time than they did in the past, but there are still plenty of people out there that switch it off to save battery or to block their device from connecting with other hardware. All of this means simply having beacons isn’t enough to make them effective for your business.

How do you make beacons work for your business?

The most effective way to overcome these challenges is to deliver a highly desirable experience in the app that makes shoppers want to download it to participate. Push notifications from a beacon are a feature of an otherwise valuable app, not the main purpose of the app. If the app doesn’t deliver useful information or a worthwhile service without the beacons, it’s destined for failure.

Don’t plan beacons and add an app. Plan a great app and add beacons.

Think of beacons as tiny employees that never ignore a customer that approaches them and never need a lunch break. You can count on them to always deliver accurate information to help a potential customer in the sales process. Implementing an app with beacons can be far cheaper than hiring additional employees, and beacons can track shopper behavior, too.

Beacons track the frequency of devices coming within their range, how long the device remains there, other beacons the same device interacted with, and more. A well-implemented beacon strategy can give you incredible insight as to your customers’ behavior while they shop. You can find out where they linger, where they want more information, what they pass by quickly, and what they miss entirely.

As shoppers become more inseparable from their devices while shopping, pay attention to how your business can engage the over-connected consumer and make the sale. Beacons are ideal for retail stores, real estate, auto sales, and any business selling in a physical location to a browsing customer.

We’d love to explore how beacons could help your company. Contact us to start the conversation!

By Emily Hart