Beacon deployment: Three key focus areas for success

How_To_Deploy_Beacons

Although beacons are becoming more commonplace, large-scale deployment hasn’t been quite as quick to take hold as those of us in the industry may have hoped. So, what are the main blockers for people wanting to deploy beacons?

While things are different for each individual business, many issues can be filed under three primary headings: People, Processes and Technology.

I thought it would be useful to look at each in turn and see why these issues occur, and how the beacon industry (Including here at blueSense) can help users move past these.

Technology

Let’s start with the tech itself. There are still a few misconceptions around what beacons actually do. Beacons themselves are actually fairly passive. In most cases, an app installed on a device will be doing all of the actual ‘work’ involved in receiving a signal. A beacon initially just sends a pulse of data at regular intervals, which tells the app to begin listening. This is useful because without the permissions granted by the app, beacons are unable to broadcast anything unwanted to a device. This has been a key factor with audiences, and as yet it has been difficult to communicate just how secure beacons actually are.

Once an app begins listening, it will respond to the beacon and grant it permission to deliver a new message. At this point your management software steps in and decides what kind of message is most appropriate. In the case of a retailer it might be a coupon for example, but there are endless varieties of content you could serve. Incidentally, this situation is beginning to change. There is a definite concern that users are using fewer apps than they used to, so there’s now a focus within the industry on integrating into widely-used apps like Facebook or WhatsApp, and also on circumventing the need to use an app entirely.

We’ve been building a network of enabled apps here at blueSense, and as this progresses, it should become easier for businesses to connect with customers. It’s also an area where larger commercial enterprises can help. Many telecoms providers are viewing beacons as a piece of infrastructure, rather than as adtech, and they are well placed to drive the further integration between beacons and apps as they have physical locations and app integration already existing at scale.

Processes

Technically speaking, this should be an easier area to address than the tech itself, but processes often trip up the unwary business owner. Many businesses are rolling out beacon networks, but haven’t taken the time to consider what that means from a strategic point of view.

Beacons themselves can deliver extraordinarily relevant messaging to users, but as with any platform, there is often a tendency to send too many messages. In retail in particular, you may often be dealing with a wide variety of demographics. In an attempt to reach these customers, many stores initially opted to send special-offer coupons to customers. While this is a good way of gauging how willing customers are to engage with location marketing, it is far less effective than personalised messaging.

In many ways this is similar to the issues experienced by marketers using email. In the early days of email marketing , scale was the most important thing.

Marketers were desperate for data and this gave rise to a large and often unscrupulous market for data. Over time, leading marketers have realised that sending less messaging, but concentrating on segmenting audiences and providing messaging at the correct time saw a huge rise in conversion rates.

Beacons are exactly the same. In the case of retail, simple segmentation can be a carried out around use-cases. For example, you could easily segment users who regularly use click-and-collect services and remarket online shopping options to that group. Just because data is gathered from a beacon network, it does not necessarily have to be re-used there.

Marketers are making efforts to join up various channels of communication and the data received from each, and it’s here that beacons may provide the most value – by identifying online and offline customers as specific individuals, and providing them with tailored options. This could be purely commercial; For example, if a customer researches a product online but decides to purchase in-store, then it is easier to attribute value to each channel. Or it could be a far simpler interaction – letting a customer know about an item on their shopping list they may have forgotten. The key here is to provide value and enhance experience.

beacon_deployments
Luckily, value leads to success.

When considering a deployment, it is crucial that you have clear goals in mind, and a way of measuring your results (It would be remiss of me not to mention that our own proximitySense platform is capable of this).

People

Finally, let’s talk about the people involved in the process. Any new technology comes with a learning curve, and it’s important to help both customers and staff understand exactly how and why your beacons are being used. In many cases, it can be a simple transition. If beacons are being used to track industrial assets for example, then the majority of users may see this as an improvement in workflow as there is no need to continuously scan and rescan assets being moved or delivered. In customer-facing situations, the challenges are somewhat different.

As mentioned earlier, there is still some consternation around the security of beacons, and while the majority of the public are becoming more comfortable with the idea of trading some personal data for improved services, these underlying concerns persist. We’ve made a point of addressing this by making our own code open-source, so it’s easy to interrogate where and how your data is being handled, and implement your own security systems and protocols.

On a more practical level, it pays to introduce users to the benefits of beacons slowly. Earlier I mentioned click-and-collect services, which are a useful example as there is a clear value proposition for the customer, and a reason to actively opt-in. This is also true for the leisure, retail and travel sectors. Using beacons to provide wayfinding in larger venues is again, useful without being intrusive.

Having a focus on usefulness is key if the market for beacons is to expand, but they are also key for any user wanting to engage with customers and not distract them. The temptation to push messaging may be the most obvious use of the technology, but it is not always the most useful, or valuable.

How can beacons improve train travel?

the_beatles-ticket_to_ride

This weekend I’m heading off to Brighton for a nice day out with my wife. Why am I telling you this? Because I booked my tickets using The Trainline’s app, and while it all went very smoothly, it did make me think about how our travel arrangements could be made a little easier.

Firstly, a word on Trainline. It’s a great app that provides value in a number of ways. The marketing is all about how it can save you money, but frankly I think the real value is in the removal of friction.

The_Trainline_App

In the past I’d have needed to scan through various different train company websites to find the best ticket. I’d need to register my details with them all, and I’d never quite be sure that I wouldn’t have saved money by travelling by a different route or an hour later.

Trainline gets rid of all of those problems for me. I book my tickets, I‘m sent a reservation email, and I can collect my tickets at the station.

The_Trainline_App

And here’s where we start to hit some snags. Victoria is an incredibly busy station. Where are the ticket machines? Once I get to them I have to stand, phone in one hand and credit card in the other, holding up the line as I attempt to locate my reservation number.

When I do find it I have to take out my credit card to verify my identity, wait for the tickets to print… and that’s before we’ve even begun to think about which platform I’m supposed to be on, and whether or not my train is on time.

But there is another way. A better route if you like.

I stroll into the station, and am directed by my phone towards the ticket machines. As I reach the machine it recognises me (or at least, my BLE device) and finds the correct tickets for me. I click one button on the Trainline app to verify that I do indeed want to collect my tickets, and we’re done.

No need to wave my wallet about in the open, no need for cash or card. Security is increased and the entire process takes half the time thanks to a beacon installed in the ticket machine.

Of course, this is just one way of doing things. Train stations tend to be large, open spaces, meaning it’s actually very easy to install beacons. Even a space as large as Victoria only requires a few long-range beacons to cover the main concourse and platforms.

London_Victoria_Station

With an app like Trainline in use, the station could ‘know’ when I enter, send me information on my train’s current status and platform number, send me an alarm before departure to make sure I don’t miss it, guide me straight to the correct platform and even allow me to board without needing a paper ticket, as the ticket barrier scans my BLE device.

For stations without barriers, it would also allow staff on board each train to check my ticket quickly and efficiently – in fact the train itself could do this. No need for all that wandering from carriage to carriage clipping pieces of paper – leaving me free to sit back and enjoy my journey.

Of course, this isn’t limited to train travel. Dublin Airport currently has a network of beacons guiding travellers around the concourse (more on that in a future post) which can take at least some of the stress out of long-haul travel, , while any location that uses tickets – theatres, stadiums, clubs and music venues – can make use of a simple beacon deployment to improve the experience for their customers.

Beacons: What’s stopping you?

deploying_Beacons

As a marketer, I spend a fair amount of my time on Twitter, and of course I’m always on the lookout for information about the beacon market, so when a recent Twitter chat popped up discussing proximity marketing I was quick to join in. 

One point that stood out in particular was the various obstacles that marketers felt they faced when deploying beacons. We’ve spoken before about some of the myths associated with the tech, but it seems that many users still believe that beacons are ‘techie’. That they will be enormously complex to set up, and that it will cost a huge amount to do so.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. I thought it would be a good idea to address these concerns here – and hopefully help you to begin using beacons for your own business.

Beacons are expensive aren’t they?

First of all, let’s talk money.  Beacon technology is actually very cheap. The devices themselves are lightweight, and in most cases you will not need a huge number to begin experimenting. Our V3 beacon has a range of up to 100 metres (330 feet).

To give you an idea of how far that actually is, meet the Hybrid Air Vehicle:

Hybrid_Air_Vehicle

That’s the world’s largest passenger aircraft. It’s a little larger than a football field. Oh, and it’s 330 feet long. Pretty big eh? And just in case, we also have a long range beacon, for those times when you absolutely have to send a message to someone standing at the opposite end of four Olympic swimming pools.

It is worth mentioning that signals from beacons do ‘bounce’ off various surfaces like mirrors or light fittings, so most users will need more than one (I’ll talk more about this in a moment), but even so, the cost is very small. Here’s why:

First of all, our beacons are built to stand up to all sorts of abuse. They can take plenty of knocks and keep on transmitting. Even if you particularly enjoy knocking them about or keep running over them in a forklift, we have an especially tough weatherproof version that will – quite literally – take anything you can throw at it.

Because they are so strong, it means they will also last a very, very long time. A regular beacon has a battery life of around two years, while an extended battery version will keep going for five years, non-stop (Or if you prefer, the same amount of time as the Starship Enterprise).

Star_Trek_Quote

And it’s worth mentioning that beacons can last even longer than that, but five years is actually about the working life of a regular AA battery. The battery will give out before the beacon does.

This brings us back to cost. Over two years, you’d be paying about 2.7 pence (3.9 US cents) per day. If you sent messages to five people during that time, each one would cost you half a penny. 

OK, so beacons are cheap to use, but aren’t they complicated to set up?

You probably know where I’m going with this already, but just in case: Nope.

Terms like ‘real-time data and ‘proximity marketing’ can make things sound complicated. With any new technology there is a certain amount of learning that has to be done, but in this case it’s more akin to figuring out your new mobile phone than ‘learning to code’.

This where Proximity Sense comes in.

Proximity Sense is our beacon management platform, and we’ve designed it to be very, very user-friendly. As a user, all you have to do is turn on your beacons, and add a message for a group of beacons, or for each individual one.

manage_iBeacons_easily

This could be a simple ping letting you know where the beacon is, or you could upload a nice picture, and add a message (‘Buy one, get one free’ for example) or, well, there’s a lot of possibilities.

The whole thing takes a few minutes. After that, you can pop in to look at the results whenever you need to, but if left alone, the beacons will continue doing their thing for the next two years.  Oh, and if you want particularly detailed analytics information, or have a lot of beacons that you are setting up with different messages, or need to manage them in many different locations, we’ll even do it for you.  Which brings me neatly to my next point…

Earlier I mentioned that beacon signals can bounce off certain surfaces. This isn’t a major problem, but it does mean that some thought needs to go into where you place your beacons. We’ve also spent a long time working with beacons here at BlueSense, which is why we send qualified engineers out to take care of this part for you – easy! We can make sure that you’re beacons are in the right place to reach the right customers.

Anything else I should know?

Finally, some users have found that managing beacons can be a bit of a pain. If for example, the battery does go in one of them, then in the past you would have had to wander past each beacon checking them in turn, rather like checking the bulbs on a string of Christmas tree lights.

We thought about this, and that’s why we’ve also produced our Management Hub.

Beacon-monitoring-Hub

The Hub plugs straight into your wifi, and keeps an eye on groups of your beacons to make sure they are all running smoothly. Having this happen automatically also means you can easily check which beacons are getting the most engagement. If one isn’t reaching people, you can simply move it to a busier area. This means you can quickly optimise your campaigns to reach the most people.

So, beacons are inexpensive, long lasting, and easy to set up. What’s stopping you?

We’re always looking for ways to improve how beacon technology is used, so if you have any other issues, or you want to get started with beacons, drop us a line and let us know how we can help.

The complete A-Z of beacon marketing use cases and case studies

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When it comes to beacons, many of us immediately think of the most simple use-case available: pushing messages. Many locations now use beacons to deliver specific messages to customers, but this represents the tip of the iceberg as far as value goes.

Above and beyond simply delivering notifications or offering voucher codes, beacons allow businesses to develop a far more useful view of customer intent. For store owners, learning how customers move around their store space is an easy way to improve merchandising, while for marketers, beacons can allow them to begin answering the huge question of how offline and online channels affect each other.

With this in mind, I thought it would be useful to compile a range of different real-world uses for beacons that will hopefully inspire your own location marketing and sales campaigns.

Airports

Airport_beacons_Use_Case

Orlando International Airport sees almost 4,000,000 international travellers pass through every year. With that many newcomers arriving, it’s important that they can find their way to services and facilities (not to mention their flights) easily. With this in mind, Orlando International has built a network of beacons that transmit directions to check-in desks, security stations, baggage claim and more to travellers, with more than 1,000 separate destinations available within the airport itself. In addition, the airport now transmits live departure and arrival information directly to smartphones – no more missed departures.

Baseball

MLB.com already had a popular app for users that visited Baseball games around the country, but realised they could add a raft of new features with beacon tech. the first and most obvious changes allowed fans to check in at games and claim free offers, but they were also able to keep adding features like parking guides, mobile food ordering and the ability to offer music sales as players – also tracked by beacons – ran on to the field.

Child safety

Any parent knows how important –and difficult – keeping a constant eye on the kids at the beach or mall. Nivea came up with a unique solution to this, combining a location beacon with a high profile ad campaign. Nivea distributed bracelets which parents could monitor through their phones. Check out the video case study:

Directions

While many stores are attempting to increase browsing time, US pharmacy giant Rite-Aid has the opposite objective. Their customers are trying to locate specific items as quickly as possible. Rite-Aid has installed beacons in more than 4,500 stores that are designed to work through their own app, but also through a series of partners to allow customers to minimise the time spent in-store, a key component of a better customer experience for Rite Aid.

Enablement

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Barclays is just one high profile example of businesses using beacons to provide better experiences for customers with accessibility issues. The bank uses beacons in its branches to alert staff (Via an opt-in phone app) that a customer with a sight, vision, speech or mobility issue has entered so that they can quickly provide extra assistance.

Freight

Whether it’s huge shipments travelling by sea, or local one-hour delivery, keeping track of articles in transit is a constant battle for many businesses. Beacons configured for outdoor use make a cheap and easy way to track individual pallets, containers or items. Because beacons can be preset with codes that match each item, they remove the need for manual scanning on delivery, instead sending a preset message. For smaller shipments a personal message can also be attached easily, adding to the customer experience.

Good boy!

Wouldn’t it be nice if your dog could exercise itself? Granata came up with a novel solution to pet exercise, using beacons to create an obstacle course for pets, who could be rewarded with a Granata Snackball if they completed certain tasks!

Home improvement

If we’re being honest, ordering a Pizza was never a very challenging task, but that didn’t stop apps improving the experience for us. Now we can order a large pepperoni with a single tap of an app. But what other simple tasks can we do away with? Adding beacons to your home opens up all sorts of automation possibilities – doors that unlock as you approach, heating systems that know when you are in the room and adjust the temperature accordingly, light controls, and – of course – fridges that will automatically order fresh veg for you whenever you run low.

If This Then That

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Or IFTTT if you prefer. Beacons allow plenty of real-world uses for the popular ‘recipe service’ app. For example, if a customer enters a store, a message can be sent to via management comms service Slack, where further bots can post it as an event in Google analytics.

Jukeboxes

Wouldn’t it be nice if you and your friends could create playlists with all your favourite tunes when you went out to a bar or restaurant? Beacon installation in internet Jukeboxes, or connected sound systems like Sonos mean venues can discover who is in the room and actively tailor playlists based on their Spotify preferences. Just watch out if you’ve been listening to One Direction in secret.

Kew Gardens

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The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in London are a fantastic experience in their own right, but realised that visitors could gain far more from their trip if they were provided with contextual information. A network of beacons throughout the facility provides visitors with information on the many rare and beautiful species of plants, as well as interesting historical data on the gardens themselves. In addition, customers can use their phones to directly access the information, meaning there is no need for the facility to invest in expensive headset guides.

Loyalty cards

A simple use-case, but a valuable one. Every coffee shop and clothes store offers a loyalty card scheme, but with beacon deployment it’s possible to create a far more personalised experience. Nature’s Marketplace uses beacon deployment to alert shoppers of new offers, but also to assign more or less loyalty points based on their particular shopping habits. This allows the store to specifically promote certain items without discounting.

Medical

Dutch healthcare provider LUMC has built a beacon array designed to track patients who have suffered a heart attack. This tracking allows them to track and improve the time it takes for a patient to receive a potentially lifesaving balloon angioplasty treatment. The trial has proven so successful that there are now plans to introduce it to other departments in order to improve overall response and treatment times

New York

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The city that never sleeps has been at the forefront of beacon deployment, with a wide range of bars and restaurants linking location apps to payment solutions. Rather than trying in vain to catch a waiter’s eye, patrons who want to leave can just get up and go, confident that their bill will be automatically and securely deducted from their bank account

Online-Offline

Or ‘The marketer’s dilemma’. As more business is conducted online, marketers spend more time trying to work out if the people that visit their websites are the same people who shop in stores. In many cases customers now research products online in advance, before purchasing locally. In-store beacons combined with a proprietary, or third-party app mean that marketers can now bridge this gap, and provide more relevant communications to multichannel customers.

Privacy

Privacy concerns around data are often seen as a challenge for beacons, but they can actually be used to add another layer of security and do away with the need for access passes or pin codes. No more forgetting your ID card on the way to the office! Devices equipped with touch-activation can also be used in conjunction with beacons to enhance data privacy easily.

Quick Payments

In the past stores like Starbucks have used beacons to speed up the ordering and collection process, but we’re now seeing small-payment apps like Droplet and Pingit begin to integrate with beacons, meaning not only can you have your coffee waiting for you when you arrive in store, but you can saunter back out without needing to rummage around for change, or even line up to pay.

Revision

Finding a quiet spot to get some homework done can be a challenge for many students. Grand Valley University in Michigan knew this was an issue, so it incorporated beacon networks into campus libraries. The beacons fed back ‘heatmaps’ showing how busy different areas were at a given time, allowing students to find quieter areas, or gain faster access to specific materials.

Snapchat

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At time of writing, Snapchat had more than 200 million monthly active users. With such rapid growth, the company has to ensure its users don’t get bored of the experience, so adding hyperlocal filters to snaps is a quick and useful way to enhance the experience. Snapchat allows advertisers and event organisers to build their own filters, and target down to a 20ft radius.

Trust (and Tesco)

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Some users are understandably concerned about certain aspects of beacon networks, so when UK retailer Tesco began trialling location marketing in stores, they knew they would have to have to approach customers carefully and build trust over time. Rather than bombarding users with offers right away, the store began with simple welcome messages, and providing instructions when a customer arrives in store to collect goods they have ordered online.

Urban Outfitters

The international clothes retailers uses beacons in its larger stress not to promote content, but to streamline the customer experience. Beacons allow the company to reduce checkout times, and also to alert customers easily when fitting rooms are free.

Vending Machines

As less of us carry cash, and coins in particular, the need for simple micro-payments has become widespread. Beacons installed in vending machines make an ideal replacement for a pocket full of loose change, with low-power beacons configured to work within a very small radius so that there’s no chance of accidentally charging a cola to an unwary passer-by.

Workforce management

While accidents do happen, Australian cleaning services provider Spotlight was aware of a growing insurance fraud issue, with unscrupulous customers blaming supermarkets – and Spotlight – for falls in public places. Spotlight wanted to make sure it could document issues to reduce fraud, so the company instigated a network of beacons to track employee movements. In addition to reducing risk considerably, it allowed the company to clearly understand why and how quotas were missed, and adapt working practices to improve services accordingly.

X-Men

X_MEN_Beacon_marketing

20th Century Fox utilised beacons in Japanese theatres to provide movie-goers with exclusive content and games to promote X-Men: Days of Future Past. Notifying customers of theatre promos is common, but there are also use cases available that make the cinema a nicer place to be – checking that everyone has turned their phone off before the movie starts for example.

Yachts

The North Aegean Cup is one of the world’s most prestigious Yacht races, so it needs an app to match. Thanks to a wide-ranging beacon array, competitors and audience can constantly keep track of boat positions, race information, weather updates and receive live pictures and content throughout.

Zatarain

The New Orleans-inspired food producer makes the list not only because they are handily named with a Z, but also because they were the first consumer packaged goods brand to utilise in-store beacons. Their system allowed customers to gain points, and provided a ‘shopping concierge’, with recipe and ingredient tips provided to customers at key locations.

These are just a few examples of how versatile beacons can be, and we see new uses every day, which is why we offer the largest range of beacons in the world so that however you plan to use location technology, we can help.