Can marketing ever really master omnichannel? (Clue: yes, if they buy a ton of beacons)

Omnichannel marketing

Mastering omnichannel marketing is the dream, the holy grail, the ultimate goal, and plenty other terms and phrases that basically means “oh boy, if we nailed omnichannel marketing we would rule the world.”

But can we ever truly wrestle omnichannel to the ground and make it say uncle?

What does omnichannel marketing mean?

Omnichannel refers to the seamless experience that all business owners must provide its customers in the digital world.

Simply, a customer should have a totally joined-up and consistent journey across all your channels – in-store, online, mobile app, social media, email, everything.

It begins with research and ends with (hopefully) a sale, but in-between there can be all sorts of tributaries and digressions…

Let’s say a search on Google for your product leads to a paid ad for your product, then the searcher clicks through, lands on your website and researches the product. Maybe they’ll add it to their basket, but then there’s a chance they’ll just change their mind and leave.

You could then retarget them with an email or display advertising. Maybe that will tempt them back. Maybe it won’t. Maybe the customer wants to know more about it before they purchase…

Perhaps the same person then sends your company a tweet or an email asking for some help. Your customer service team can reply as quickly, politely and personally as possible. Perhaps that customer then goes into your physical store a week later, tests the product and then asks for assistance. The helpful sales assistant maybe makes a sale there and then, or finally, the customer goes back to the website and makes a purchase from the convenient comfort of there sofa… or a mobile phone while sat on a bus.

Finally a conversion is made!

All of the above sounds ridiculously complicated (and is probably a little boring to read) but we have all behaved in a similar way – but probably drawn out over a longer period of time, with even more channels and false-starts.

The key to keeping your potential customers happy and your brand or product at the top of your mind is to make sure that all of the multichannel experiences above are consistent.

What counts as ‘consistency’ in omnichannel

There are loads of things you should ensure in order to provide a joined-up experience, but the following are very important.

  • Your brand is consistent
  • Your messaging is consistent
  • Your tone of voice is the same
  • Your pricing is the same
  • A customer should only have to deal with one customer service representative, or at least not have to repeat themselves every time they get in contact
  • Make sure all retargeting is relevant to the customer, in email and display
  • Make sure if an item is placed in a basket on the desktop version of your site, that it remains when they visit your mobile site
  • Your various web properties (desktop, mobile web, app) should have the same navigational elements and offer the same native experience
  • Your customer service should be excellent, responsive and personal across all channels – whether in-store, via email or on social

With a lot of the above, it will come down to strong management and a clear vision for what you want to achieve across every facet of your business, especially when it comes to customer service.

But for everything else – especially the automated, retargeted parts – there are beacons.

The true battleground for providing seamless experiences across channels, is the one between online and offline.

Yes you can ensure that your digital-first properties are coalesced, but how can you be sure that the same experience will be granted to your previously digital-only customer when they walk into your store?

Beacons. By having beacons placed around your location, you can be certain that you’re delivering the right messaging at the right time to your potential customers.

With you app downloaded, a visitor can continue where they left off online in your physical store.

Everything added to a basket, or browsed for online, can inform the offline experience. Perhaps a wishlist created on the web can be used to send the user personalised discounts. Perhaps if you have a loyalty scheme, you can remind them how many points they have when they walk in.

Finally everything that happens in a traditionally non-digital setting can be measured, attributed and learnt from – therefore informing the last outpost  of the customer journey in a far more accurate way than ever before.

How live data from beacons can improve your CRM strategy

Creative Commons:

Plugging in all the live beacon-data from your physical business’s locations directly into your CRM system can have a measurable and positive impact on your abilities to personalise offers and messages in real-time.

Let’s explore how this can be achieved, and answer some straightforward questions you may have around a piece of software you may not be using, or utilising to its full potential.

What is a CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and it refers to any system used to manage a company’s interactions with its current or future customers.

The purpose of this to help automate some of the more time-consuming, labour-intensive customer service chores so you can spend more time and effort developing the actual human-side of your relationship… the one that will lead to a much healthier customer lifetime value (CLV).

Why should you use a CRM?

A good CRM should organise, automate and synchronise all of the customer facing areas within your company, and not just sales, but also customer service and technical support. (Also marketing too, which we’ll get to later.)

It basically means you can chuck all those massive ledgers and rolodexes in the bin, and hopefully means you’ll never miss an important detail or calendar date in relation to your customer, wherever they are in the sales funnel.

This information on your clients is stored in one place, and should be shared with your whole team. Anyone can update the data, and these updates will be made live immediately. This means that everyone in your business is on the same page when it comes to the relationship.

A decent CRM should also provide you with metrics and help you forecast for the future. You’ll be able to see the complete history of your interactions with a client and you can use this to strategise for the future.

What types of data can be plugged into a CRM?

All the traditional channels, such as telephone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings can be entered into a CRM, but the system you choose should definitely come with social integration and be able to harness mobile data.

More and more people are using social as their first port of call when it comes to contacting a brand, and more often than not, this is done via mobile.

However, what about the missing piece of the puzzle?

Many businesses do not have the complete picture of any given customer journey, particularly those with premises in the offline world.

Without the ability to identify and measure a customer’s in-store interactions and behaviour, then a CRM will never truly be accurate.

But how can a business take these offline interactions and make them… online?

By using beacons.

How live data from beacons can complete your CRM strategy

By placing beacons in your premises, you can measure exactly how a customer behaves in-store. If you target an individual who has your mobile app, with a specific message or offer, you can answer many difficult questions that most businesses can only struggle to guess at…

Has the marketing worked? Has the notification directed that person into a store? How long did it take? Did they use the offer? Did they buy anything else? How long did they spend in-store?

You could then prompt the customer with a quick survey, asking if they enjoyed the experience and where it could be improved.

All this data could be fed directly into your CRM, and can immediately be used to improve communications and personalise offers for the next person that wanders through the door.

Ultimately, this live data coupled with your existing CRM data, is designed to improve customer service. However, never before have we had the capability to do so in such an agile, on-the-spot manner that takes into account the entire long-term customer relationship.

How loyalty apps are driving in-store purchases


Let’s take a few minutes to pour over some beacon-related research that will help underscore just how important it is to connect the physical retail experience with your digital channels – particularly your mobile-based loyalty apps.

The world of loyalty cards seems like the preserve of gigantic chain supermarkets that have to compete viciously with each other in order to survive.

But thanks to mobile apps, the mass production of plastic cards and the huge infrastructure it takes to enable these vast data collection programmes no longer means loyalty schemes are just for the retail giants.

Every digitally savvy retailer, from an independent boutique to a small city-wide chain, can build a loyalty app that sits on your customer’s phone and offers great added value, for relatively little cost.

Of course the question is… why should I bother doing that?

Let’s look at the latest stats on customer behaviour in regards to loyalty and mobile apps.

Why should I have a customer loyalty program?

Okay, good question. Simply put, any loyalty programme is obviously designed to keep customers coming back to your specific store rather than a competitor’s. But say your competitor offers more convenience than you (it may just be that it’s closer to the customer), you’re going to have to offer something pretty special to make someone come further out of their way to your store.

That’s where a loyalty program comes in. And I don’t just mean points based systems that accrue meaningless general deals, but genuinely personalised special offers or cold hard money off.

Loyalty programmes work! Here are a few stats from Bond’s recent 2016 brand loyalty report:

  • 81% of consumers are more likely to continue doing business with brands that offer loyalty programs
  • 75% of consumers say loyalty programs are part of their relationship with brands
  • 73% of loyalty programs members are more likely to recommend brands with good loyalty programs

These are huge majorities of customers, all saying “yes, offer us a loyalty programme, make it worthwhile and we’ll come back.”

And it’s not just those of us who are used to carrying around loads of different, forgotten plastic cards in our wallets, younger people who probably don’t even use a wallet anymore use loyalty schemes too…

According to Blackhawk Network’s recent study on shopping habits:

  • 69% of Millennials belong to a retail loyalty program and 70% of those are happy with the program

And according to Software Advice the most important thing that will keep millennials using a loyalty program is the speed with which rewards build up (51%) and the variety of rewards available (38%). It should be worth noting that 50% of millennials stated they would quit a loyalty program because rewards took too long to accrue

The case for building a mobile app for your loyalty program

According to Google, 84% of shoppers with smartphones use their devices to help shop while in–store. But then, you don’t really need Google to tell you this. You already do it yourself. You’d be crazy not to! With huge improvements in mobile optimised websites and network connectivity, why not do 30 seconds of research while in-store to see if you can save some money elsewhere.

But it’s not just the mobile-web that shoppers are using, research from Apptentive carried out in July 2015 shows that a vast number of US consumers are using specific retail apps while shopping, which is helping drive in-store purchases.

  • 88% of respondents used retailer apps
  • 61% said they used them at least monthly.
  • 26% of the app-user population used retailer apps seven or more times per month
  • 71% browse retail apps before buying in-stores, at least once a month
  • 51% have used a retailer app while in store.


But what do people want from a loyalty mobile app?

According to the Bond research we mentioned earlier, 77% of smartphone users suggested they’d like to see mobile-specific offers such as surprise points or rewards, exclusive content and special birthday messaging.

All of this adds to brand loyalty and all of this is achievable with the data you can collect on your customers.

And customers will of course carry on using your mobile app outside the store. The Bond research suggests that, 57% of consumers are interested in using their mobile device to check their points balances, redeem reward points (55%), find a location/store (54%), and browse reward options (54%) at home.

Ultimately this loyalty culminates in revenue. According to ABI research: 40.4% of respondents who had downloaded a retailer branded app said that as a result, they bought more of the brand’s products and services and 45.9% said the app caused them to visit the store more often.

Joining up your physical retail store with loyalty app

Of course all of these benefits to you mean nothing if you’re not benefiting your customers.

According to 2016 research from Revel Systems and Forrester 93% of executives agree that’ it’s important to integrate digital capabilities into physical locations to improve customer experience while 94% of retailers see in-store digital capabilities as important not only for customer experience but also for store operations.

But how can you achieve this?

How beacons can help you join everything up into one brilliant customer experience

Build that loyalty app, give it to your customers for free, and place beacons around your premises to trigger specific deals and helpful store advice.

Make the most of it by offering free Wi-Fi in-store, and don’t be shy about it either. Also do encourage your customers to enable their customer loyalty apps with simple guides. Promise that that the push notifications will be ‘worth it’ then prove it by sending a brilliant one-time offer when they walk into your store.

Use the data you’ve accrued about your app users to tailor genuinely helpful bespoke offers and offer true personalisation.

Make their shopping experience as pleasurable and fun as possible, while also being brilliantly helpful. They’ll not only come back to your store, but also use your app while at home too.

Pokémon GO, millennials and proximity marketing’s big breakthrough


Don’t panic, that headline isn’t just an excuse to cram every marketing buzzword possible into one sentence. But unless you’ve been living under a Pokéstop, you’ll no doubt be aware that around 80% of the planet have recently decided to spend their spare time taking ten-mile hikes in search of imaginary monsters.

Pokémon Go is the world’s largest treasure hunt, and while it’s essentially pointless (If fun), it is doing something important. It’s making everyone who plays it realise that location tracking and Augmented Reality can both be done really well.

It may seem odd for a beacon company to be talking about a game that runs on GPS tracking, but actually there’s a huge amount of crossover here (although of course beacons do location better than GPS, not least because they won’t drain your battery in five minutes flat).

A new audience for contextual experiences

One of the most interesting aspects of Pokémon Go! is the audience it has attracted. In the recent past, businesses have become a little obsessed with the millennial market, and there’s good reason. Millennials are the forerunners of customer behaviours that are extremely valuable, but largely absent from older demographics.

This doesn’t mean that millennials are ‘just kids’ however. According to Vox, around 40% of players are aged 25 or over, with just over a third falling into the 24-34 age group.

The incredible rise of Pokémon Go is an indicator of changing behaviour on the part of consumers, but more broadly, it also shows that we are changing the way we interact with technology.

Pokémon Go is now loaded onto almost 6% (Approx 6.46m) of US Android phones. That makes it bigger than Tinder (Which has about 2% of the same market), and almost as big as Twitter:

Via Business Insider

The only other tech with such a phenomenal rise in recent memory is the mobile phone itself (I’ve spoken about how this is already affecting your business before).

Changing user behavior

The important thing to consider though is that this is all new territory for users. Our devices may be digital, but we still interact with them in an analogue way. We pick up a physical device and (in most cases) hold it to our ear, or jab at the screen.

Pokémon Go is changing this. Users are suddenly aware that experiences can be contextual. That they are improved by being integrated into the physical world.

In many ways this reminds me of online publishing. A couple of years ago, online magazines were published as PDFs, or on platforms like Issuu. To read them, you would download a doc, and turn the ‘pages’ manually.


Now look at more modern forms like Flipboard, Bulletin, or even the digital comic book industry. The analogue version is changing into a digital, contextual experience.

Users are now ready for communications that blend into their daily lives. Until recently, retailers using beacons have struggled as they try to get users to enable Bluetooth. Users are downloading less apps (but spending more time in the ones they do use).

Thanks to a little gamification and a whole lot of animated Pikachus, Pokémon Go has removed these friction points and allowed its audience to see the value of digital context.

What this means for marketing

So, what does this all mean for proximity? The important thing to remember here is that they enable hyper-local communication, are far more accurate and have a lower cost than GPS-driven apps, and we now have an audience that is not only willing, but actively embracing contextual communication.

The only thing for businesses to decide is whether they want to make the most of this opportunity, or be rushing to play catch-up with competitors in a year or two…

32 Charts, stats & quotes that prove you need to invest in proximity marketing in 2016

Google customer journey

Given that blueSense sells iBeacon hardware and management software, it won’t be too much of a surprise to hear us tell you that you need to get on board the proximity marketing train right away.

Luckily, you don’t need to just take our word for it.

Here are 32 charts, stats and quotes from businesses that show just how important location-based services are going to be in the near future, and why you should consider investing now.

The world is going mobile. Fast

There are now more mobile devices in the world than there are people.

We actually hit this level way back in 2014, when GSMA reported that there were 7.22 billion devices in the world, compared to ‘just’ 7.2 billion humans.

number of smartphones worldwide

Don’t expect that trend to stop though. Back then, around 60% of the population owned a mobile phone, but just a quarter of those were smartphones. Statista expects this to rise to more than 50% by 2018:


In fact, we can reasonably expect 4.77 billion phones to be on the market by 2019

And phones aren’t the only devices out there. In Q4 of 2015, the wearables market grew by more than 126%, including more than 8 million new FitBits hitting the market.

In fact, the global wearables market reached 45.7 million units in 2015 and is set to reach 126.1 Million Units in 2019. 

And of course, beacons can communicate with all of those… 


It’s also worth comparing this usage to desktop. Here are two graphs from Google which handily sum up the trends:


We’re buying more things, through more devices, than ever before.

And we’re also using those devices for product research (We’ll look at why this is so important in a moment).

According to Monetate, retail clients saw mobile conversion rates rise from 1.2% to 1.53% between 2014 and 2015:


  • In 2014, UK users bought £8. 41Bn ($11.10Bn) of goods through mobile devices. By 2015, that number had risen an astonishing 77.8% to £14.95Bn customers spent £14.95Bn ($19.73Bn).
  • According to data compiled by RetailMeNot, During the same period, PC spending increased by just 2%.  
  • The global mobile commerce market is set to reach $3.2 TRILLION by 2017.

Savvy businesses need to be engaging customers through their mobile devices.

Search behaviour is changing to be more local and contextual.

All these devices are changing something else as well: the way people look for information.

Customers are doing more research on products before buying, often engaging in ‘showrooming’ – looking at a product in store, but also looking for a cheaper price online.

According to Comscore, 43.3% of UK smartphone users have used their device in a retail store:


While data from Google shows how complicated the customer path to purchase has now become:

Google customer journey

Users are increasingly looking for information on the spot, and delivering content to them directly can heavily affect their purchasing decisions.

Data from xAD shows that 60% of consumers who research goods and services in-store will buy on location.

Keeping track of online & offline data is a huge challenge.

With so much data coming in, you’d think that businesses would be able to track their customers pretty well.

And they can to a degree. If you’ve handed over your email info, then a business should be able to send you emails that you are personally interested in. What they aren’t so good at is working out what goes on once you actually enter a store.

Data tends to sit in silos, and that means it’s tough to tell if an online campaign helped sell something in a store (or vice versa).

Data from Econsultancy shows that, while beacons are a far more accurate way of tracking customers in-store, just 5% of businesses are currently doing it. Instead, they are relying on tracking codes, phone calls and surveys – all methods that require extra steps from the customer:


Customer experience is the best way to win customers

The really interesting thing here is that customer experience doesn’t begin and end when a purchase is being made. It actually covers every part of the journey –

Whether a customer wants a useful website when they begin their research, a great in-store experience, or useful information afterwards.

According to CustomerThink:

  • 92% of retailers think customer experience is vital to their business
  • 56% believe they need to seamlessly integrate online and offline data to provide a good experience.
  • Meanwhile, more than half (53%) of customers would stop using a business if they received poor in-store service, and almost a third (31%) have abandoned a purchase because of bad service.


Beacons allow businesses to integrate their data, and optimise in-store layouts to provide better service, as well as removing customer friction points such as the need to carry loyalty cards, or check that they are receiving the best price (Both major pain points, according to Retail Customer Experience)

Low barrier to entry

We’ve covered this before, but just to be sure: iBeacons have an average range of around 100 metres, and cost around £20. With an average battery life of more than two years, beacons cost around £0.0114 ($0.02c) per hour to run. With such a a low entry point, it’s no wonder the market is expanding so rapidly.

Meanwhile, 9to5mac has data from InMarket which shows that since they began sending iBeacon notifications to Epicurious users in stores:

  • Interactions with advertised products increased by 19x.
  • App usage was 16.5x greater for users who received a beacon message vs those who did not.
  • Users who received an iBeacon notification are 6.4x more likely to keep an app on their phone.

It has already begun

The fact that there is a key product called ‘iBeacon’ should tip you off here. Big players like Apple, Google and Facebook like to experiment, but they don’t plough serious money into technology unless they are convinced they will see a return.

Don’t take my word for it though – here’s what these firms have to say about beacons and proximity marketing:


“Beacons are an important way to deliver better experiences for users of your apps, whether you choose to use Eddystone with your own products and services or as part of a broader Google solution like the Places API or Nearby API.

The ecosystem of app developers and beacon manufacturers is important in pushing these technologies forward and the best ideas won’t come from just one company, so we encourage you to get some Eddystone-supported beacons today from our partners and begin building!

Chandu Thota, Engineering Director and Matthew Kulick, Product Manager 


As people continue to use their phones everywhere and all the time—including while they shop and dine—there’s an opportunity for businesses to connect with customers online while they are in store. So earlier this year we started testing Place Tips, an optional Facebook feature that helps people learn about and connect with the places they visit, including businesses. Since we started our test, local businesses that have tried Place Tips have seen a steady uptick in Page traffic from in-store visitors.


You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology

– Steve Jobs 

TechCrunch estimates beacons will reach 60 million customers by 2019, while ABI research estimates that more than 400 million beacons will be deployed by 2020 

And the effect they have on purchasing is well documented.

According to the 2015 Retail Touchpoints report:

  • Beacons will drive $44 billion in retail sales in 2016, up from just $4 billion in 2015.
  • In 2014, 15% of retailers were launching beacon programs in the US. In 2015, that figure rose to 46%
  • 71% of retailers using beacons believe they can now track and understand how and where their customers purchase items by using beacons

The evidence is compelling, the tech is ready to go, and customers are actively looking for better, more contextual experiences. Get in touch to discover how we can help you grow your business with beacon technology and data.

How are iBeacons going to affect search marketing?


I originally published this post over on Search Engine Watch, but I thought it might be of interest to marketers who read our own blog as well. 

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about the effects beacons and proximity marketing may have on search strategy.

There seems to be little doubt that it will bring some very fundamental changes to the way we reach customers, and the type of targeting and data management we’ll need to master in order to do things properly.

Although perhaps not in the way you might think…

Improving proximity results

Search Engine Watch has spoken about beacons a lot in the past, but just in case you need a refresher, a beacon is a tiny device that can transmit a signal to any Bluetooth device in range – phones, fitness bracelets, headphones, smartwatches etc.

Usually this happens through an app (although Google in particular are taking steps to remove this friction and enable direct device communication), and before the privacy police wade in, it’s all completely opt-in.

It certainly has some obvious ramifications for local search.


In the past, we’ve largely been limited to areas defined by map coordinates for localisation. These are fine for locating buildings, but not so hot once people actually enter a space.

Beacons have a big advantage here because they get that location down to an area a couple of metres across, and they allow you to transmit and receive data in realtime. If I’m standing by the apples in your supermarket, you can fire me a coupon.

I’m using that example on purpose by the way, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

Beacons don’t need to be interruptive

For marketers, there seems to be an assumption that beacons are an interruptive marketing tool.

Retail couponing is the most obvious use-case after all, but just as early ecommerce sites learned, couponing is no way to build a successful business. And as the publishing industry is learning, interruptive marketing… just isn’t very good really. People don’t like it in most cases.

As I say though, this is only an assumption. The real value of beacons is actually almost the complete opposite of interruptive.

It is in contextual interactions, which usually rely on either an active request from a user, or passive scanning and data aggregation by the person deploying the beacons.

In other words, if I visit a museum, download it’s app and enable push notifications while I’m there, then I’m actively searching for information abut my location.

If not, then I can still be monitored as an anonymous device that is moving around the museum. Once this data is collected, there is a lot of potential value. Maybe it’s time to move that Rodin statue to a more prominent position (possibly next to the gift shop).

Search will need to become hyper-relevant in an open beacon marketplace

So what does this mean for search?

Currently, a lot of local search isn’t that great. There are plenty of fine examples, but there is certainly an adoption curve, particularly for small businesses.

Do a quick search for something like ‘Bike shop, Shrewsbury’ and you can usually see which businesses have a lot of low-hanging SEO fruit that they just aren’t optimising for.

This is a missed chance, but it is usually being missed because of a lack of familiarity and time. People who are busy running a hardware store don’t often have time or money to really concentrate on good SEO.

As beacon deployment becomes more widespread (and it is going to be), this situation is going to change for the user on the ground. App networks and beacons deployed as general infrastructure in more locations mean that local optimisation is opened up to more players, with more resources. Why should our local bike store be wasting time optimising when Raleigh can be doing it for them?

Local SEO will begin to be a wider concern not for the locations themselves, but for the companies that sell through those locations. And those companies have the resources and processes available to start doing a really good job.

There is however, still a place for the location itself in all this, and that is in adding contextual value, which may not come from purely commercial campaigns.

Recently I visited Edgelands at the Barbican in London, where one of our clients has deployed beacons that guide visitors around the interesting (and slightly confusing) internal space.

The interesting thing here is that it occurs through sound, so that visitors are able to view their surroundings, rather than keeping their eyes glued to their phone screens. It adds context while keeping the visitor engaged with the physical space, rather than having the two vie for attention.

With the rise of experience stores, this is going to become a more important point of differentiation over the next few years. Customers won’t want distracting alerts and pop-ups, they’ll want something that provides a richer experience.

From the marketing side, providing these will become a way to deepen brand affinity as much as increase immediate sales.

Search is about to leave its silos behind

This makes location a strange, mixed bag for search. On one side, brands providing advertising through app networks and beacon fleets owned by third parties (in my opinion, telcos are currently best placed to handle and benefit from large scale deployment, as they already have large data networks and physical locations).

In many cases, this will be about hyper-localised PPC campaigns. On the other, locations providing realtime SEO, with a shifting set of keywords based on whatever is currently happening in-store (or in-museum, or in-restaurant for instance).

It means that we’ll have to get better at aligning our data and working out which signals really matter, and we’re going to need to get insanely good at management and targeting.

I hate to use this word, but search will need to become more holistic, and even more aligned with marketing. There’s a huge opportunity here for search marketers, customer experience, data management and more.

Get in touch and find out more about how blueSense can help you optimise your proximity marketing campaigns. 

How can beacons improve your next live event?


The sporting industry has been one of the quickest to adopt iBeacons. In the US, the NFL and MLB have deployed beacons in stadiums that allow visitors to check in at live games, and in return receive useful information on everything from where to park to which seat upgrades are on offer.

All useful, but things get really interesting when you start to add context that isn’t limited to the venue itself.

Many users see beacons as devices that are limited to use within a location. While it’s true that this is their primary function, the real value starts to become apparent when you start collecting location data – working out how people behave once they are actually inside a building.

The most obvious use of this data is to optimise the internal layout of the location. At a stadium, putting your concession stand in the right place can generate thousands in extra sales, or moving your gates to remove bottlenecks can have a huge impact on safety and visitor satisfaction.

Better data = more value

Above and beyond this however, beacons add a digital layer. That data can be added to the wider marketing which occurs before, during and after an event.

As mentioned, several stadiums are already experimenting with ways to increase on-site engagement from fans, for example by sending them polls where they can vote on probable next plays. There’s an obvious use case for this kind of data for the betting and gaming industry, where on-site sentiment could be used as a calculation metric.


In addition to keeping visitors entertained, these polls are extremely easy to extend to a digital or broadcast audience, adding an extra dimension to an otherwise passive activity. The TV industry already does this to an extent through platforms like Twitter, but by adding in real-time reactions, the process becomes even more personal. The ability to make audiences more active is invaluable from a commercial point of view, but this is about far more than just ‘selling’.

Many sports fans are close followers of statistics and historical data, which beacons could easily relay to devices in the crowd as each layer takes the field. Fans on site could also be connected directly to friends at home through their social networks, meaning they can interact with hyper-targeted groups to discuss play as it happens.

And of course there are plenty of opportunities for gamification. Who wouldn’t want to become a superfan or ‘mayor’ of their home team’s stadium in exchange for special gifts, loyalty points or recognition? Beacons now offer the ability to take everything offered by social media accounts and make it even more personal.

These actions aren’t just limited to sporting events, or stadiums. Gigs, theatre, movies and business networking can all benefit from this extra layer of data. In the past we’ve mentioned that beacons could be used to check attendees in to an event quickly, but once they are inside, it becomes possible to market in real-time based on their existing preferences, and connect them easily with colleagues. Networking is itself a huge part of the value-proposition for many conferences.

Once the event is over, it’s easy to match up data for greater value – which vendors did your guests visit, and for how long? Which speaker sessions were the most popular?

There are hundreds of points of micro-optimisation available, and afterwards you can segment data for follow-up communications in far more detail. As an example, I have often found that after an event I am bombarded with emails from the sponsors. While selling attendee data is a key commercial point in many cases, event hosts would be able to make sure I only received communications from sponsors I had actively interacted with, meaning that while email list volume is reduced, conversion rates can be increased. Essentially, this is on-site predictive lead generation.

Beacons are becoming more common in many venues, but there is a long way to go. Sports teams, bands and event promoters are perfectly positioned to gain massive value from beacons and location marketing. Many of them already have apps, and they have audiences that actively want more data and information delivered in real time. It may be a cliché, but giving customers more of what they already want is never a bad strategy.

Ready to get started with location marketing? Check out our range of beacons, or drop us a line to see how we can help your business improve its data and communications.

Using iBeacons to create unique customer experiences: An Edgelands case study

Using ibeacons in public spaces

Recently the blueSense team took a trip to London’s Barbican Centre to check out Edgelands,  a new audio installation that uses beacons to communicate with visitors and allow them to understand the building’s unique architecture and history in a new and innovative fashion.

It’s one of the more unique and interesting uses for beacons we’ve come across, with a real focus on the user experience. We spoke to creator Hannah Bruce about the technical and creative challenges involved, and why beacons were the technology of choice for this installation.

Can you tell us a little about the ideas behind Edgelands?

There’s a hopefulness about the architecture of the Barbican, set in concrete, a strange relic of radical urban planning. As artists, we were interested in about what this Utopian vision might mean today. We talked about traditional notions of Utopia, the concept of an ideal state that comes from Greek words literally meaning ‘no place’, but also an alternative conception that evokes Utopia as a temporary moment in the here and now (an intensification of everyday life).

Using iBeacons in public spaces

I was particularly interested in challenging these concepts of Utopia to resonate on a personal, human scale. Is Utopia just a wish, constantly deferred, or might we discover fleeting glimpses of it embedded within our everyday lives? How can we acknowledge individual difference within those glimpses?

Artistically, it was a huge challenge to find ways to generate these temporary moments of intense experience, when we know that every visitor is going to be different. You might find a historical fact fascinating, whilst someone else might find a sound evocative, or a particular architectural decision revelatory.

So we tried to leave space for difference. Are you a history person? A senses person? A number person? Or a physical person? How does that affect the way you experience this Utopian space?

What made you think about using beacons for Edgelands?

The beacons came into the picture as a practical solution to an artistic problem. My number one essential rule, is never start with the technology! Always start with the artistic concept, identify the challenges, and work out whether technology can be one of the many tools that solves those challenges.

In terms of our artistic concept, Utopia is often imagined as an island state. We wove this imagery into Edgelands by producing different ‘islands’ of sound that visitors can discover as they explore the foyer spaces. It’s as if you are at sea, floating on a raft, and every now and again you ‘hear’ a glimpse of land and pull yourself onto the beach to rest and listen…

ibeacons apps on Google Play

Practically, we wanted the soundtrack to relate directly to specific places in the building, but because of the disorientating, complex nature of the space, we didn’t want to force people to navigate a particular route.

So that’s how we arrived at the idea of using Bluetooth low energy beacons. We wanted localised ‘islands’ of sound, triggered by a visitor’s proximity to a specific place or view in the building. People could wander freely, and when they got close to a beacon that particular “island” audio would play.

Thanks to a University of York R&D research grant, we already had experience of working with Bluetooth beacon technology. We first used the Bluesense beacons at Hoxton Hall, an amazing Victorian music hall hidden in the heart of East London. The Hoxton team commissioned us to create a pioneering visitor experience, responding to the hall’s historic 150 year old archives.

Rather than creating a dry museum display, we wanted to be true to the building’s performative music hall history. We were determined that the experience should be artistic, emotional and atmospheric (rather than just an opportunity to look at objects and read facts). We wanted visitors to have the sense that the building was almost a character itself, responding to their presence (and that as a visitor you also play a role in the building and become part of its story).

The beacons were an ideal way to give visitors the impression that the building was animate – for example, as someone enters a room the lights come on, and a voice speaks very naturally as if chatting to them in the same room (but the voice is based on a character from 100 years ago). Eerie, but magical.

The combination of Bluetooth beacons, and sound recording techniques such as binaural sound, allowed us to achieve this. Using headphones, binaural sound imitates the way our ears naturally hear the world, and can have a dramatic immersive effect. For example, many visitors are amazed when the person they hear descending the stairs behind them turns out to be fictional!

How did you get on with setting up the beacons themselves? Did you have any technical challenges to overcome?

The technical challenges kept us on our toes. Thanks to a University of York R&D research grant, we already had experience of working with Bluetooth beacon technology. However, every new project comes with unknown factors.

At the Barbican, the foyers are huge open spaces with different intersecting levels, full of concrete surfaces. We already know we can use architectural features and building materials to our advantage to deliberately obscure signals and manipulate the trigger point (alongside adjusting beacon strength, advertising frequency etc). Of course, in a place like the Barbican this gave us a lot to experiment with – it’s a concrete jungle! But we had no idea how the beacons would behave in such large, cavernous areas.

Our worst fear was that the Bluetooth signals might replicate small children running around a hall of mirrors at a funfair – getting reflected and distorted, bouncing off balconies, scrambling through pipes. Potentially the signals could have appeared in all shapes and sizes in entirely unexpected places. Luckily our alpha-testing went much more smoothly than we’d anticipated. Maybe that’s what happens when you make a piece about Utopia…

We also knew from previous work that the hardware of Android devices differs dramatically when it comes to Bluetooth capability. In August 2015 OpenSignal reported that there were just over 24,000 distinct Android devices, with a beautiful image to represent the fragmentation:

Android Device Signal Fragmentation
Android device signal fragmentation – Check out the interactive version at

Due to the significant bluetooth variation in the android devices, we realised that a calibration system would be essential if we wanted to trigger sound at roughly the same proximity across a range of devices (and artistically, because of the site specific nature of the narrative content, a universal trigger point was very important to us). Even though Apple devices vary less, a calibration system was still useful across different models, devices, operating systems etc.

How is the project being received by visitors?

Edgelands launched fairly recently, so we don’t yet have a body of feedback for this piece. We encourage people to leave feedback – we have a traditional written option, and there are also feedback buttons you can click in-app which allow you to email us thoughts.

Interestingly, at Hoxton Hall we have received an unexpected amount of feedback from visitors, mainly about the artistic impact of the experience. I don’t have any hard science about this, but I suspect its because visitors have a very personal, atmospheric experience which fires their imagination, and they are in a reflective state. When they finish the experience, they are invited to complete a feedback form, and I suspect we catch them at a point when they are fully engaged and immersed.

How did you go about getting past any initial self-consciousness so that visitors can immerse themselves in the experience?

Our audiences tend to dash to the venues we work in, straight from their busy lives. They have often travelled on public transport, fought their way through crowds, had busy days at work or with kids, and arrive frazzled with their head in survival mode. Life can be very overwhelming at times, visually, aurally.

We all have techniques to screen things out. Its almost as if we have our own mental algorithms that unconsciously help us filter things we don’t want to see or hear. As artists, we’re interested in creating an environment where, rather than screening things off, people open themselves up to their surroundings. This doesn’t happen easily – it’s a two way process of trust. Our audience have to trust that we’re going to look after them, and we have to trust that they are going to engage with complex concepts and be generous with their time.

We have found its very important to help people enter a different kind of head state, and this can’t be rushed – there’s a kind of liminal threshold that we have to invite people to cross. For this reason, we always think very carefully about the first few scenes. These opening minutes are critical for imparting practical info, but they also need to be immersive, set the right tone, open people’s hearts, make them intrigued, notice their surroundings, and a multitude of other difficult things.  As one audience member said about a previous piece we made: “I’m normally really cynical and critical but I just really enjoyed this experience… it was like slowly lowering into a warm bath.”

How are you measuring usage and effectiveness?

We use Developer analytics to monitor App units. We also have ipods available for people to borrow at the Barbican if they don’t own a smartphone or tablet, so we have to keep a more old fashioned tally of these loaned devices!

Many of our customers have a commercial imperative driving their use of technology. It seems that by avoiding that, you have been able to concentrate wholly on the context of the experience.

Do you think this would be affected by a more commercial approach?

I think on one level you are right in saying that we take a more contextual approach to what we are doing. We use a whole battery of techniques to support our concept, and the technology is just one aspect. The complicated, and magnificent (!) thing about our approach, is that we draw on a combination of strategies to ensure every “experience” we make for audiences is holistic.

In any single commission we consider site, content, technology, audience behavior, audience emotion, atmosphere, light, architecture (and the list goes on) as integral elements of our toolkit. So we think much more broadly and artistically, about live holistic experiences, rather than just using location based push notifications to sell ‘stuff’.

Of course, there are many things that make this easier for us than in the commercial world. Our product is an experience, not a material product. We can give assurances that we aren’t capturing anyone’s device data, which removes that potential barrier to participation. Edgelands is an experience that audiences have sought out, and chosen to participate in – we start with an already interested party (although I suppose that many consumers are already interested).

Of course, there is an element of commercial imperative for us. We have to pay our artists and technologists. Commissioners like the Barbican and Hoxton Hall spend money on this work because it adds value to their assets.

It might not be measurable in terms of direct sales but it means that people are attracted to the Barbican, spend time in the building, might buy a coffee, see their ads for other shows, buy a ticket for something else, or, like traditional advertising, see the Barbican as a leader in technological and artistic work. One of the key elements of the brief from the Barbican was that they wanted to transform the foyers into a new creative platform spanning the length and breadth of the Centre. Our role was to find ways to make these spaces central to visitor experience.

I think there’s probably a lack of imagination with many commercial approaches to BLE beacons. There are experiential, atmospheric, environmental elements which can turn consumption into a more contextual ‘experience’ for a consumer. I suspect that the importance of these nuanced elements will increase, as the novelty of receiving a push notification wears off.

In the same way that we learn from and use technologies from the commercial sector, there are definitely lessons that the commercial sector could take from our ‘artistic research’. We invest significant time (and money) into thinking about how to direct people in an interesting way via narrative, how sound design and music composed for a specific place can affect the ‘user’, how to subtly influence or encourage people.

We might not use these tools in order to make direct sales, but I think many of the influencing factors could span both worlds. What I think is unique and essential to our approach is the craft, the subtlety, and the quality of the whole. It’s not the same as piped music or library music or someone telling you ‘now go to the next exhibit’.

There are always cultural overlaps between theatre, and the society in which it is watched. So, although I think there’s a tendency in the arts to see the commercial world as a Big Bad Wolf, there are definitely significant influences from one to the other. In Exeunt, an online theatre magazine, I was fascinated to read various theatre critics recently drawing parallels between the culture of consumption, and the experience of seeing an immersive theatre show. Alice Saville suggests that “immersive theatre feels like a capitalist playground”.

I certainly think that the increase in scale, grandeur and sumptuousness of work by companies such as PunchDrunk or DreamThinkSpeak reflect their audiences’ interplay with other experiences – shopping, festival going, even watching TV. And how about glamping? It is not just luxury camping, its about imagining yourself into another lifestyle, an “immersive experience” of glamour which means your short break takes on an escapism combining material consumption with imaginative action. You practically star in your own “immersive theatrical experience”. In a commercial context, Cornetto has aped the zeitgeist of “immersive theatre” and binaural sound with its “Cupidity” events at Westfield in 2015 and 2016.

Cornetto Cupidity
Cornetto’s ‘Cupidity’ short film event at London’s Westfield Shopping Centre

I think that on the whole, artists are very good observers of society, and I think the skill of bringing consumption and experience together is one that is proven in work like Punchdrunk.

I suppose I am intrigued about what might happen if a company with a commercial drive was courageous enough to risk committing to a more contextual, holistic approach to using beacon technology. I suspect that focusing on the whole experience rather than the immediate sale, might have interesting results.

Do you have any future plans for more beacon projects?

I have a bad habit of dreaming up a new piece every time I discover a new building or take a walk, so its really just a question of finding the support to match the ideas.

Currently, we’re in the early stages of a some exciting discussions about a number of beacon projects (if I told you I’d have to kill you, of course), and we are continuing our R&D into Bluetooth technology and the internet of things, supported again by the University of York. I think one of the refreshing things about both the artistic and creative technology worlds is that people are generous with ideas, collaborations and time. So it’s a question of opening up conversations.

Its been very exciting working with the Barbican team, because as producers they work with a highly collaborative commissioning approach. As artists, we had a role in supporting the vision for a ‘smarter’ Barbican building in the long run. It’s incredibly exciting to be on the cusp of a wave, working in a building with staff willing to be daring and innovative, supporting artistic risk.

I think many arts centres and spaces have managers who are slightly intimidated by technology – digital natives are in a minority at managerial/executive level – and so the shift is slow at the moment, but I think it will explode in the near future. Recently I went to an exciting symposium at Warwick Arts Centre, run by Ludic Rooms, which brought together arts professionals to look at interactive and networked technologies and their use in the creative process. There were some really exciting people and projects there, such as Melissa Mean at the Knowle West Media Centre, Nikki Pugh who is an associate artist at Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, and Sam Howey Nunn who runs Artful Spark

Its fantastic to be supported by organisations such as the Barbican and the University of York, so we’re excited about what the future holds.

Visitors to the Barbican can experience Edgelands until October 7th, 2016. Find out more about the technology behind this project on our product pages, or check out our A-Z for other use cases. 

Keeping track of people with beacons: Privacy, relevancy and optimisation


Recently we’ve been talking about using beacons to track assets, but it’s worth remembering that in many cases, the most valuable asset might be a person.

When we talk about tracking people, there are often some concerns about privacy involved, so I thought I would look at some of the situations where you might want to track people (either anonymously or specifically) and address these issues.

Privacy Concerns

Let’s talk about privacy first of all. While it is an important and understandable concern, it is worth remembering that attitudes around tracking are evolving. In many cases, online users are willing to trade a small piece of personal data (an email address for example), in return for information.

What matters here is making sure that the information or service you are providing is relevant enough. In order to collect this information, you will need not only to clearly inform the user about what information you need, but also where you plan to use it, and what they will receive in return.

It’s also worth mentioning that beacons themselves are fairly passive devices. They cannot transmit any information at all to your phone without explicit permission. In most cases this involves allowing an app to receive messages and send push messages, as well as enabling Bluetooth.

While some efforts are being made to address the need for an app (and Bluetooth devices like fitness wristbands often come with appropriate software pre-installed), it is still the default for most devices. This brings us back to relevance and value again. Points of friction are best addressed by providing something genuinely useful.

This is actually a microcosm of the wider mobile commerce market, where many businesses invest in a mobile site to initially attract users, before attempting to ‘upgrade’ users to a dedicated app to increase ‘stickiness’ once they have already proven value. For now there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to this, as value changes from business to business. It’s one of the main reason we offer consultation services for our customers, so that we can learn more about the specific needs of customers.

Use Cases

As mentioned, there are a number of reasons you may want to keep an eye on people, and it’s important to remember that it doesn’t need to be a Big Brother-esque scenario. Simply anonymously tracking devices as they enter and leave areas can add enormous value. Here are a few different use cases:

Optimising workflow

In previous posts I mentioned that tracking assets could speed up the flow of goods from warehouse to store. The same is true of people. Ever booked a taxi to the airport, and then waited for your delayed departure? Think what you could do with the spare time (Duty Free is calling your name…).

In a business situation, it shouldn’t be used to ferry staff around like drones, but knowing where I need to be, and when is extremely useful. If a delivery is running late, then I can prioritise other tasks to fill in the lost time. If a task requires a set amount of time to complete, then my progress can be monitored. It can cut down on a huge amount of wasted time and allow me to more efficiently organise my own day.

Building better environments

One of the easiest beacon implementations is simply tracking the movements of devices around a space. With a management system like superHub, it’s easy to see where people enter, how long they stay, and where they hover.

Which in-store displays are attracting the most attention? Are customers spending so much time in the dairy aisle because they love looking at the cheese, or because they can’t find the eggs easily?

Using_beacons _in_warehouse

Keeping track of their movements and interactions is entirely non-intrusive, but allows you to optimise your physical space – be it supermarket or warehouse – so that people can easily find items, and also keep moving during busy periods.

Renting devices

Recently a couple of the blueSense team visited the Barbican in London to try out Edgelands, an interactive experience which uses our beacons to showcase the building’s unique history and architecture (Look out for more on that in a future post). Before we began though, I realised I had forgotten my headphones.

Luckily I could rent some from the shop. Unluckily it involved handing over my drivers license and making a cash deposit (They were very nice Sennheisers, so I appreciate why).


It is possible however, to avoid this. Thousands of museums, parks, zoos and attractions now offer experiences with an audio-visual element, and hand out dozens of iPods, tablets and headphones to go with these. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just take one without needing to fill in the paperwork. This actually works for all kinds of items, from headphones to bicycles, with your personal device linked to a specific device that can be easily tracked.

Tracking children in public spaces

There is also a safety element involved in tracking people. We’ve talked before about shopping malls using beacons for wayfinding, providing maps that point out key features. While this is useful for adults trying to find their own way around, it may not be quite as useful for children.


Several large malls are now experimenting with beacon tracking for wristbands, meaning you can easily keep an eye on your children, even if they have been distracted by the enormous M&Ms display and run into a shop they shouldn’t have.

This also works for themeparks, zoos, and all kinds of complexes where many people need to be safely identified and guided.

Meetups and networking

Finally, what kind of marketer would I be if I didn’t mention networking? In the past I’ve worked with events that have used apps and RFID to track users, but beacons can actually offer a much wider experience with a much higher level of personalisation.

They can easily supply you with live information on who else is in your vicinity so you can optimise your networking time, and allow vendors to know when important clients are using their stands. In the past this kind of data has relied heavily on word of mouth feedback, but with beacon tracking you would be able to identify exactly who had visited which booth or conference session throughout the day.

Finally, there is also the added bonus of providing live information on the event itself – knowing which sessions are starting and finishing is a huge boon, as is automatic check-in to events.

Keeping track of people can provide us with a huge amount of new data, which in turn should allow businesses to optimise their own efforts internally, and provide far more relevant messages and experiences for users. If you’d like to know more about tracking, check out our proximitySense platform.

How can beacons help with asset tracking and management?

asset tracking

When we talk about beacon deployment, there’s a tendency to focus on consumer-facing applications. Retail has been the sector driving adoption in many cases, and being able to track customer flow – or even a specific customer – has clear, measurable value.

However, customers aren’t the only thing that has value within an organisation. While it may be less ‘sexy’, asset management is an area where beacons can provide massive business value. I thought it would be useful to look in more detail at asset management here, and lay out a few simple use-cases.

What is asset management?

Before we get started, let’s define our terms. Put simply, a beacon can tell you where any given asset is at any given time. So no more lost equipment, much faster and more accurate stocktaking, and even status monitoring. If something goes down, you can know about it right away. 

Using beacons to track items is also extremely simple. You can simply attach a beacon to the item and monitor these through a management device like our superHub.

Let’s consider a few typical use cases.

Locating assets.

A number of organisations have experimented with tagging items with RFID chips in the past. While these are useful, they have a limited range, which means they are not useful for larger spaces. Beacons have an advantage here, partly because they have a larger range, but also because they can be deployed in groups.

You can easily cover a large warehouse space with just a few beacons. For other internal spaces (where you have to deal with smaller rooms, corridors, lifts etc.), you can quickly deploy beacons in fleets to give total coverage.

It’s also worth noting that beacons offer greater security, and more control over the type of signals being broadcast and accepted.

One case that we have talked about internally is hospitals. Medical equipment is very high-value, and quickly locating the right device can literally be a case of life and death.


Medical scanners and devices are routinely wheeled from place to place within hospitals; so tagging them with BLE beacons makes perfect sense. Because beacons use low-energy signals, they also avoid interfering with device operations.  This also allows usage patterns to be monitored and optimised.

Inventory and logistics.

Warehouse inventory can be a time-consuming process with a great deal of manual work involved. Staff are often required to scan stock in and out of various warehouses for transit, and stocktaking often involves manually recording each and every item in turn. 

With beacons it’s easy not only to monitor the position of a given asset or container of assets, but you can also receive real-time information on position and stock levels. Transport hubs or even individual vehicles can be easily equipped with beacon monitoring equipment so that any asset can constantly be monitored.

This reduces logistics workload, increases security and enables businesses to optimise their logistic workflows. In the current business environment, where everyone struggles to provide speed and agility, the ability to quickly locate and distribute goods can offer a real competitive advantage.

Process management.

It’s also worth mentioning that the ability to monitor assets does not end with finished products in a warehouse or on a shop shelf.

It’s also possible to monitor parts and materials during the manufacturing process, which again can help avoid bottlenecks in the process and aid fulfilment, and even assign staff to specific tasks based on their current proximity to particular assets. This is a low-cost way to greatly improve efficiency.

There are endless other possible asset management use-cases available, from mobile device management to optimising transport. Take a look at our other use case examples to get inspired, or check out our range of beacons to see which best fit your business.