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LSA15: The Future is Beaconing

Beacons are the latest technology marketers are optimistic can help create more effective marketing, personalization and assist in delivering “closed loop” attribution.  Lara Mehanna of SONATA, Mark Modzelewski of Estimote and Josh Glantz of Mobiquity Networks gave some insight into how beacons are currently being used in the marketplace and the potential for SMBs.

First, given the unfamiliarity of the beacon technology amongst conference attendees, the group gave a quick overview of how it works. A beacon is a small, battery operated sensor that can be easily affixed to different surfaces. Basically, using Bluetooth technology, the beacon communicates with mobile devices and is like a lighthouse or handshake where the two devices connect.

The data that can be captured from the beacons include device IDFA (unique identifier), location, time, frequency, pathways. What is interesting here is the opportunity to couple this data with other consumer data and retarget accordingly.

Another reason beacons can be useful is that they are inexpensive ($5-$30 each) and helps locations better understand the path to purchase.  To show how they work, they all provided some real life use cases:

  • Event: Lara’s organization “beaconified” an event in Spain. They sent out geo-targeted ads to get attendees to download an app and come to event. Once downloaded and the attendees were within the event, they were sent push notifications. Around 50% of the attendees interacted with these notifications.
  • Package Distributor: Triggered by a lost package of value, a package distributor saw an opportunity to better track inventory with beacons. The company implemented beacons to help manage stock and know where packages are. This is interesting because in addition to reaching consumers in-store, beacons have application in the back-end warehousing process.
  • Retailer: Getting a consumer to walk into a store is a major goal of all businesses. By using loyalty programs and beacons, one retailer was delivering notifications in the common area of a shopping mall to deliver incentives to go into a store and engage with a sales rep.

Most often retail has been the overwhelming favorite of the beacon prospect, however other categories are seeing opportunity as well. CPG and pharmaceutical companies are very interested in understanding the path-to-purchase for their products and beacons bring an opportunity there.

According to Josh, the next wave of tracking will not just be foot traffic, but also dwell time. For that reason, movie theaters and bars, where there are high dwell or stationary time, will bring a significant opportunity to reach and understand consumers.

On the SMB side, beacons have the same opportunity and a comprehensive program isn’t necessarily out of the financial reach of smaller marketing budgets. Mark said that an SMB could invest $3,500 to integrate a beacon program into their store. However not all SMBs are good fits for beacons.

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