Beacons Enable Customer-Centric Marketing

beaconsWouldn’t it be great if we could all create marketing that is so fantastic, it becomes inextricable from the brand experience?  When marketing is helpful and has relevant utility for the recipient, then it does achieve this status as “service.”  Similarly, since mobile is such a powerful part of the way that people experience brands today, marketers are looking for ways to understand what people need in the moment, and provide it as a branded service.  We know it as marketing, but the recipient finds such value in it that it is viewed as service.

What exactly do people want to hear from brands on their mobile phone that could be of such utility? In the past, advertisers had to make assumptions about messaging and were forced to send them without the input of the consumer.

Enter the beacon.  It’s a powerful arrow in the marketing quiver, and can be exceptionally powerful in understanding and engaging people in that precious “moment of truth” when buying decisions are made.

Shopkick videoBeacons are small indoor positioning devices that use low-energy Bluetooth (BLE) to communicate with a shopper’s smartphone in the hopes of improving the in-store shopping experience, according to Digiday. When placed in a store, beacons can detect nearby smartphones and send them media such as ads, coupons, or customized supplementary product information.  This brief video from ShopKick illustrates how it works through a trial they did with Macy’s in New York and San Francisco.

Not just for shoppers, beacons can also be used as point-of-sale systems and collect large amounts of data that can then be used to improve both real-time and right-time marketing, in-store and online.

Beacons allow marketers to deliver customized messages, usually designed to improve the shopping experience.   Using preferences, previous shopping habits, location, and other data, beacons allow marketing messages to be woven into the larger customer experience, creating both interactive and relevant messaging—all at the time of purchase.

Beacons are hot… a BI Intelligence report projects that use will grow 287% to nearly five million by 2018. For many brands, the benefits of beacons are clear, and early adopters are starting to see the return.  With so many beacons already in play, it increases the stakes for getting them right.  Take a look at a few examples of how beacons are being used to help you determine if it’s a good opportunity for both your business and your customers.

  • Miami International Airport recently launched an app that uses beacons to help consumers navigate the overwhelming terminals and find the correct gate for departure as the app sends them notifications on their mobile devices for restaurant and retail deals in the airport.   Similarly, an airline could use a beacon to alert people to delays and direct them to the bar or shopping choices around the corner – with a coupon!
  • The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. and The Guggenheim in New York City have created enhancements to the visitor experience.  When a viewer approaches a piece, additional information about that painting, sculpture, or magazine cover is served directly to his or her phone. While certainly helpful in educating visitors, the real power is the tracking data provided to museum administrators. That data can help design teams determine what exhibits are most popular and which need to be tweaked to better appeal to the audience.
  • McCormick & Co.’s Zatarain’s use beacons to send shoppers grocery list reminders and loyalty points based on the context of the store from the food and spice brand.
  • Retailers like Macy’s and Target use beacons to recognize, reward, and get to know their best customers.  This helps increase loyalty and, in turn, build a stronger relationship with them. The data collected on these shoppers also allows highly personalized and targeted offers, which will reinforce the loyalty programs mentioned above.

Beacon technology is an incredibly cost-effective and targeted way to communicate, but the best value it provides is data. Data on consumer shopping habits and behavior will inform store layouts, product placement, target market penetration, and on-site displays, as well as help monitor staff efficiencies and service standards.

TopRight Founder and CEO Dave Sutton explains how the beacon helps creates new opportunity during the The Customer BuyWay™ by helping to merge all the “Moments of Truth” (MOTs) along a buying journey.  “A customer experience that used to take days or even months now just happened in a fraction of a second,” he says.  “Mobile is the accelerator and data is the driver to seamless digital and physical process.”

Becoming truly customer-centric – where your marketing serves the customer rather than the product or campaign goals – is complex, but beacons are becoming an important source of the data that enables marketers to map out truly helpful customer experiences.  Manage that data well and respectfully is one of the most important ways to #StayTopRight.


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