Facebook Builds Its Online-to-Offline Infrastructure with Place Tips and Free Beacons for SMBs

Facebook is rolling out indoor Place Tips, a feature for location-enabled mobile users that was introduced in January. This is essentially Facebook’s version of indoor marketing, but it also can serve a future analytics or online-to-offline (O2O) attribution function.

Yelp and Foursquare have tips, check-in offers and recommendations. But Place Tips is different for a couple of reasons. First here’s Facebook’s description of Place Tips, which can be content, promotions or any sort of message to on-site visitors:

Place Tips gather useful information about a business or landmark—like posts from the business’ Page, upcoming events and friends’ recommendations and check-ins—and show it at the top of News Feed to in-store visitors.

Each person’s Place Tips are unique. At a restaurant, Place Tips can show the menu, reviews and frequently mentioned information about the establishment, like a signature cocktail or popular table. Place Tips for a retail store can help customers find business hours, locate popular items and learn about upcoming events.

Facebook beacons

Businesses need a beacon on the premises to enable Place Tips and Facebook users must have location turned on. (Place Tips is one way that Facebook is encouraging users to enable location). Technically, you could do Place Tips by geofencing the business. But beacons are more reliable.

Facebook is giving away beacons to local businesses that request them. This is an expansion of an earlier trial in New York. Tips can appear at the top of the screen like a notification (see below) or dominate the News Feed (as in image above).

Facebook place tips + beacons

There’s no guarantee that Facebook will get significant adoption of beacons and Place Tips. But this is a very interesting and smart initiative. Here’s why:

  • It builds and indoor location infrastructure for Facebook that can serve several purposes
  • It creates a better experience for Facebook app users and encourages them to enable location
  • It enables indoor marketing and promotions for SMBs (something nobody else is doing right now in any systematic way)
  • Offline and in-store engagement helps with SMB Page online engagement
  • Beacons lay the groundwork for future offline analytics for these business owners

So while many local media companies and directory sites look at beacons and shrug, say it’s “early days” or dismiss it as something for big retail consider that Facebook is enabling potentially large scale indoor marketing infrastructure for SMBs and will be able to report on store and site visits.

Many companies are relying on “proxy metrics,” (clicks, impressions, engagement, even calls). Facebook (and Google through a different methodology) will be able to report actual foot traffic by day of week, time of day and so on. Most competitors will not.

Those in Local who are complacent, fail to take O2O metrics and reporting seriously and who fail to act in the near term, are simply going to get “lapped” by those (like Facebook) taking a more aggressive approach to connecting the dots.

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