Will Yext’s Xone Compel Others to Look at SMB-Beacon Opportunity?

Earlier this week digital presence management company Yext introduced Xone, a free (for now) beacon program for enterprises with multiple locations. However the company also intends to distribute beacons to SMBs through its affiliates and resellers.

Xone will use a network of existing apps that Yext is building out to remove the need for the end user to download a specific app. The hope is to leverage apps already on the phone. That’s an approach that has been proposed before but not pursued at scale.

Once installed in store the business will be able to message opted-in users or welcome them or count them. (Beacons are very privacy compliant as a general matter.)

To date beacons have been discussed almost exclusively in the context of their application to large retailers and enterprises. SMBs haven’t really been a part of the discussion, though I did have one conversation at last year’s SIINDA conference with one vendor about hypothetical SMB-beacon use cases.

If beacons are going to be used SMBs it will require partner-agencies to distribute and manage them. But there are a number of interesting scenarios possible:

  • To identify when customers came into stores or business locations (time of day, day of week)
  • To do A/B ad testing and see which ad creatives, channels or campaigns are driving in-store visits via iOS IDFA or Android ID (as a kind of companion to call tracking)
  • For “traditional” beacon in-store messaging
  • Counting visits passively for loyalty programs

The challenge, again, would be the app-download factor, which Yext is seeking to overcome by building a network. A publisher like YP has enough consumer installs to potentially make the YP app the beacon-enabled consumer app. As an aside, YP could also introduce loyalty functionality into the YP app and merchants could potentially use it as a loyalty tool accordingly.

There are varying use cases and levels of sophistication possible. But the simple ability to convey to an SMB that there were X visits on Y day and throughout the week is valuable and could boost retention.

Beyond this service providers could start to connect online and mobile ad exposures and visits, as is being done in more advanced contexts with larger enterprises. Regardless, beacon distribution is something that merits a closer look and some careful thinking by local marketing services providers.

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