Your Customers Are Moving Beacons, Are You Listening?

Bluetooth beacons. Apple iBeacons. Google Eddystone beacons. Beacons are the proximity marketing technology that will push the right advertisement to the right customer at the right time. Right?

For nearly four years now, we in the industry have been bombarded with beacons, both figuratively and literally. I say literally because beacons are constantly transmitting Bluetooth “advertising” packets — yes, that’s exactly what they’re called!

Amidst the bombardment however, there’s been surprisingly little discussion around the fact that beacons aren’t the only thing advertising. And, again, I mean this in the literal sense. Any Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device has the potential to openly and spontaneously transmit packets “advertising” itself to any nearby devices that happen to be listening. The proximity marketing beacons we’ve come to know certainly don’t have the monopoly on “advertising.”

Imagine yourself, the local retailer, being bombarded by ads from your customers’ smartphones rather than the other way around. That is exactly what is happening. Haven’t yet installed beacons in your business? Don’t worry, your customers are already bringing their own beacons in the form of smartphones, wearables and trackers (ex: Tile) each and every time they visit! And while not every consumer BLE device is advertising itself like a beacon, the Q3 2016 Proxbook Report shows Bluetooth adoption at an unprecedented 50% last year.  Critical mass indeed.

Nonetheless, the reality today is that despite Bluetooth adoption, most customers’ smartphones aren’t listening to the beacons installed by businesses. If your business has experimented with beacons, chances are you’ve come to that painful realization firsthand. But let’s not forget that the opposite is just as true: businesses are no better at listening to the beacons carried by their own customers! Fortunately though, the latter is far easier to remedy!

Any business, even a local merchant on a constrained budget, today has access to technology that listens for and makes sense of the incessant stream of “advertising” packets from devices carried and worn by their customers. By sniffing (officially known as BLE observer mode) one can anonymously measure in-store journeys, conversions, visit times and more —  without the need for an app download or any other change in customer behavior! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as BLE has the potential to enable so much more, which I look forward to discussing in future articles.

Beacons have proven to be a brilliant technology for pushing content to those customers who are prepared to listen. We’ve now reached the dawn of an era where the billions of beacons in our pockets and on our wrists promise an even brighter future for those businesses prepared to listen, and, ultimately, for us as customers!

One Response to “Your Customers Are Moving Beacons, Are You Listening?”

  1. A very good point.

    In support of that, both Cisco and HP-E’s Aruba have been shipping their new Wi-Fi access points with Bluetooth radios, integrated into these always powered connected hubs. They have both recently evolved the APIs accessing these radios to support the ability to monitor beacons. Now CTOs have the infrastructure from their primary wireless provider to work with CMOs that want to take action on the opportunity that you describe.

    You can see a demo of Cisco monitoring the Fitbits worn by their staff in their Meraki offices on our Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Beacosystem podcast interview

    Seems like this should help create the category and grow the market for what you are doing at reelyActive. You can provide supplementary sensors, the analytics and the plumbing to make use of this data (links to digital displays etc).

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