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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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.