Beacons Busting out All Over
If you haven't encountered beacons yet, chances are you will soon. Beacons are small and usually inexpensive devices that employ Bluetooth technology to accurately convey location by communicating with mobile applications on devices like smartphones and tablets.
Companies are finding myriad uses for beacons, including using them to track high-value materials stored in warehouses. As John Sprunger, senior manager of the workforce optimization practice of analyst firm West Monroe Partners, told Enterprise Apps Today, "iBeacons (Apple's version of the technology) can track something down to a five- to 10-foot level; that's something GPS can't do."
Using Beacons in Retail
Some of the most prominent use cases to date involve using beacons in retail environments. As Simon Hathaway, global head of retail experience at international marketing company Cheil Worldwide, told Enterprise Apps Today, beacons can be used to guide customers to products they are interested in, or help them navigate through large stores to find bathrooms and other conveniences.
Retailers can benefit in ways other than simply getting individual consumers to buy more products, he pointed out. For example, tracking customers as they move through a store can provide insights into how a store layout might be tweaked to promote better flow of customers and increased browsing.
Reports From Early Beacon Adopters
Though it is early days for beacons, some early adopters are reporting good results. At California's Levi Stadium, home of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, Aruba Networks installed beacons that interacted with a mobile app that helped sports fans find their seats and order concessions to be delivered to their seats. The app was downloaded more than 183,000 times in seven months, which resulted in a $1.25 million increase in concession revenue.
Airlines are also among early adopters of beacons. At Florida's Orlando International Airport, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority worked with Aruba Networks to create a wireless LAN infrastructure and install beacons that deliver location-based services to travelers. The free mobile app travelers use to interact with the beacons has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, Baseline reports. The app helps users find gates, TSA checkpoints and other key locations throughout the airport.
The GOAA is considering using its network and beacons to deliver promotions for shops and restaurants, and also to analyze passenger traffic and flow patterns to adjust airport staffing levels.
Consider the Impact on Customer Experience
As results from early beacon deployments roll in, best practices are beginning to emerge. Speaking at the Location Based Marketing Association's recent annual meeting in Chicago, Sampo Parkkinen, director of product management for retail analytics provider ShopperTrak, urged companies to carefully consider how beacons will impact customer experience.
"If you are thinking about doing something with beacons, think about what you want to achieve -- what are the points where the technology adds to or detracts from the customer experience," Parkkinen said.
John Sharry, director of sales, enterprise retail for marketing technology company Swirl, recommended using beacons in combination with other location-based information. "Beacons are only one part of the entire location marketing ecosystem. You have to set up partnerships to bring the (beacon-collected) data into the CRM system. You have to track the lift in uplift engagement, conversion rates, basket sizes and other information," he said.
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.
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