What are Beacons?

July 25, 2018 in Beacons

Beacons use Bluetooth technology to reach out to customers in a specific location, such as, a specific aisle inside a store, a trial room, near a specific car in a car dealership; with relevant offers, discounts and more.


The terms iBeacon and Beacon are often used interchangeably. iBeacon is the name for Apple's technology standard.

Beacon technology allows both iOS and Android devices to listen for little Bluetooth signals, broadcasted by little bluetooth transmitters called beacons. The beacon is simply broadcasting 'I am here and my location is type signal'. These signals, when intercepted by a nearby device, make an app react in a certain way. One way is to allow mobile apps to understand the device's position.

This can also trigger different behaviour inside an app such as push notification. There is also a number of other use cases such as providing product information in a store, welcome information at an entrance or seating information at a stadium.

Join over 1,000 companies that trust us.

Try it yourself free. No credit card required!

How do beacons work for marketing?

Beacons transmit a short range radio signal regularly. Bluetooth enabled devices, like smartphones, pick up these signals when in range. Some signals might trigger a notification, like a sales promo or packet of product information.

Whats-OUT Proximity Marketing

How to create a Proximity Marketing campaign with beacons?

One of the most common pain-points for brands that have decided to try out proximity marketing is that they don't know where to get started with setting up a campaign. In this section, we lay out a clear step by step process to creating a proximity marketing campaign with beacons. The steps involved can be broadly broken into:

  • Defining campaign objectives
  • Planning the campaign
  • Getting the messaging right
  • Measuring and optimizing campaigns
  • Let's dig into the details of each of these steps to understand how to successfully implement these.

    Defining campaign objectives

    The first step to getting started with setting up a campaign is to be clear about the objectives of your campaign. Ask yourself questions like "What is the goal I am trying to achieve?" Is it to:

  • Generate new business
  • Encourage repeat business
  • Provide customers with an engaging experience - provide indoor navigation, send product videos, enable social sharing etc.
  • If your goal is simply to generate new business - your campaign should be built around attracting customers passing by your store and sending them offers/incentives to visit your store.

    For encouraging repeat business, you could leverage loyalty schemes and incentivize customers for visiting your store more often or to spend more time they at your store.

    There are tens of ways to engage customers better, some of the best ways to do so is to send relevant product videos, empower sales associates to respond to customers in the most unobtrusive manner etc.

    Whats-OUT Proximity Marketing

    Planning the campaign

    Based on the goal of your campaign you will be able to decide on the number of beacons required, where they should be placed etc., For example, if you plan to provide for indoor navigation, you will require a lot more beacons than you will need to say, send a 'welcome message' to a customer entering your store.

    Accordingly, you will also be able to decide on the placement of beacons. For example, if you intend to attract customers passing by your store, you can place a beacon right outside the entrance. If you want to figure out how many customers actually reach checkout, you can place a beacon near the checkout. While placing beacons, factor in for interference as beacon signals can get absorbed by metallic surfaces, water etc.

    Purchasing beacons

    Obviously, you will need to purchase beacons before deploying them. Though there is a lot of information on 'battery life', 'signal strength', 'advertising intervals' of various beacons, their actual behaviour on the field varies due to a lot of factors such as interference, RSSI etc.

    While choosing the right beacon hardware, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  • Power Requirements
  • Can you go ahead with battery-powered beacons, or would you need USB-powered beacons? Should you consider electromagnetic- wave powered beacons or outdoor beacons? All this depends on where and how you plan to place your beacons.

  • Interior Design and Aesthetics
  • This is something that often gets ignored, but as a business, it's best to keep it in mind from the very beginning. You would not want beacons around your store to look hideous!

  • Compliance with Apple's iBeacon and with Google's Eddystone for best performance
  • Be sure that your beacons are both Apple iBeacon and Eddystone compliant. Few beacons today support both Eddystone and ibeacon protocols, so it's best to be sure about it.

    Getting the messaging right

    One of the biggest concerns customers and businesses have is that beacon messaging can get spammy. Also, with a recent report stating that: 'With every 'wrong' or 'spammy' message sent, marketers risk a 313% drop in app usage', it's critical that brands take care of the following:

  • Ensure that your messages are:
    1. Clear
    2. Concise
    3. Impactful
    4. Personalized
  • Avoid 'carpet bombing':
    1. Send only relevant offers
    2. Engage customers with your messages

    There are several types of messages that can be sent, the most common ones being:

    • Time-relevant messages, such as notifications on a limited period offer on the customer's favourite brand.
    • Preference-based notifications asking if a customer wishes to try on the dress she recently browsed online.
    • Circumstantial notification on the shortest path in-store to find the items on her wishlist
    Whats-OUT Proximity Marketing

    Measuring and Optimizing campaigns

    Once you have completed the above steps, it's time to test how things are working. This can be split in two steps:

    • Running a pilot project
    • Analyzing results
    • Rather than opening up the campaign to all customers, which can be quite risky, run a beacon pilot with a limited audience. While running a pilot, you can understand the issues that come up during implementation of a beacon strategy, which parts of the strategy are easily scalable and which parts are not.

      A good practice is to start with a small pilot with a limited set of people and at a few locations. Keeping it a 'closed' and 'limited' project will help you manage the project better. Also try varying the 'messaging intervals' to understand what is the optimum time interval for sending consequent messages.

      The most important aspect of running a pilot is to learn from it. Make sure you ask your volunteers for feedback - what they liked about their beacon experience and what they didn't. Taking feedback into account will help you go ahead with your full-blown beacon strategy with confidence.

      Analyzing results entails checking the adoption rates. Did customers who tested the project bother to download the app? If yes, why? If no, why?

      You need to ask your customers if they saw any 'value add' to their experience or did they find the messages too 'pushy'? Was your approach right? Were they happily surprised to receive an offer in a particular section, or did they feel it was delivered 'too late' or 'too early'. Were you expecting them to do something they wouldn't normally do - say buy something at x% discount inside your store?

      Have a look at the analytics - did the footfall increase/decrease? You could perform A/B testing with some product and location combinations within your store. This will help you optimize product placements and layouts. Find out what kind of messages worked for you and what didn't. What kind of messages saw the maximum click through - you could use such messages more.

      brick and mortar stores are the new black in the world of e-commerce.

      NYU

      Over the last decade, we have seen big retail brands, like Macy's, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble leverage various technologies such as Wi-Fi, NFC, Geofencing, Beacon technology, and GPS, to deliver hyper-local, contextual, and personalized messages to both existing and potential customers. Small businesses are often left wanting, due to the limited resources they have. But in the last few years we have seen a lot of small businesses adopt to beacon technology, given how easy and cost-effective it is.

      The stats clearly imply that customers prefer proximity-based personalized shopping experiences and this will soon turn out to be a key differentiator among businesses. A great way to incorporate proximity into customer personalization is to leverage beacon and geofencing technologies.

      Whats-OUT is a complete digital marketing platform and application that will help you start your proximity marketing campaigns with beacons and geofences.

    Get started with proximity marketing now for free

    Whats-out! Proximity and Digital Marketing Platform