So you have probably heard about Beacon Technology but if you haven’t here is a brief summary:
Beacons are little devices that businesses can place around their restaurant or retail store that tracks when users are in certain locations of their store or simply just “in” their store in general. This allows advertisers to push specials, coupons, or offers to mobile devices. The catch is that the user has to have Bluetooth enabled on their phone and they also have to have the stores app downloaded. This is why so many brands, like Target & Best Buy, are pushing their apps to users.
Beacon Technology is one of the key things that marketers will be trying to develop and understand over the next 2-4 years. However, as marketers we need to be extremely careful with this technology as it would be easy for businesses to ruin the product by pushing too many notifications out to consumers. Can you imagine walking into every store and getting 4 or 5 push notifications, every single time?
So how can businesses properly use Beacons to help their business without annoying consumers?
I sat thru a digital panel about 6 months ago where Beacons were a huge topic of discussion. One company was helping Chick-fil-a get up to speed with this technology and here is how they were going to use it. A customer would download the Chick-fil-a app to their phone and before leaving their home or work would order their food by using the app. Once they arrived in the parking lot of Chick-fil-a, a beacon (positioned in the parking lot) would pick them up and send a notification to their phone asking if they would like to dine in or have the food brought to their vehicle. If they chose to dine in, once they walked into the building another beacon would pick them up and that would cue the order up to be made and delivered to their table all without having to stand in line.
This is one of the most non-intrusive ways this technology can be used. It only sends notifications to your phone if you initiate it first. This won’t be ideal for just any business though. Most retailers or grocery stores will have to send push notifications to your phone during the shopping experience. My suggestion in this scenario would be to have the user create a shopping list before they step foot into your store. Then only send them 2-3 notifications per visit offering discounts to those exact products or related products.
You may be asking yourself how this changes everything. Retailers have been able to offer discounts thru their own apps for years. However, the reason it changes everything is not because of how it affects consumers but how it affects how we measure marketing efforts.
Attribution. It’s the one thing that digital marketers have struggled with for years. No one is going to walk into a store and tell the owner that they heard about them from a banner ad they saw online. It just never happens. However, studies have shown that banner ads actually have a direct effect on searches for that brand, up to even 2 weeks after they saw the ad. So all of a sudden that owner is giving credit to Google and their website for obtaining that customer. Our industry has come a long way in proving display metrics and not just looking at the number of clicks that come from the banner ad. We now have the ability to see view-through metrics that can tell us if a user has seen a banner ad, not clicked on it, but still went to the business’s site afterwards.
At some point in the future beacon technology will allow us to track a user who has seen a banner ad and then actually visited the store! If the store has a reward program in place we could even look at how much that person spent and what they bought. Of course, this is all assuming they have the app downloaded and Bluetooth turned on. Beacon Technology is where we can bridge the gap with online attribution and offline attribution. We can actually see that our banners, videos, social media ads are working and how well they are working. You combine all of the offline metrics with online metrics like click reports, google analytics, and viewability to get the full picture of what your campaign is doing.
So when should we expect this type of reporting to be available? My expectations may be a ways away due to not enough businesses investing into this technology. However, I would expect a large company like Facebook or Google to lead the way and implement this within 3-4 years time. Who knows … Maybe by that time an even newer technology could be replacing beacons.