In 2014, 2.6 billion people were using smartphones. By 2020, that number is expected to skyrocket to 6.1 billion — or 70% of the world’s population. As we rapidly become more and more connected digitally, significant strides are being made that bridge the gap between physical shopping experiences and the refined targeting that a digital advertisement can offer. “Beacons” are shaping up to be a very promising solution in this regard.
What are Beacons?
Beacons are an inexpensive piece of hardware that can be attached to a wall or a countertop. Using a Bluetooth connection, they send a signal to nearby mobile devices (up to 100 meters) that have the appropriate app downloaded.
While beacons are only in their infancy, there is a lot of hype around how they can be fully utilized and which industries can benefit from them. Retail brick-and-mortar stores are undeniably poised to profit from beacon technology.
But that isn’t the only sector that could benefit from its emergence — event organizers, transit systems, educational facilities, the hospitality industry, professional sports, payment processors and even home automation systems all have the potential to prosper. In fact, some of the world’s most recognizable brands are already buying in — Virgin, Macy’s, Major League Baseball, American Eagle, Walgreens and Walmart are just a few of the many who are investing in beacon infrastructure.
Imagine walking into your favorite clothing store and having your smartphone immediately notify you of all their hottest sales and promotions currently available. That’s precisely what beacons are capable of doing — sending highly contextual, localized and personal messages at the most opportune moment once a consumer has set foot within transmission range.
By cross-referencing personal information and purchase history via a compatible app, a consumer’s mobile device can essentially transform into a highly personalized and contextualized marketing medium. Whether the goal is to communicate items on sale, product recommendations or even the location of a specific item, the possibilities are endless. Additionally, targeting methods can be refined even further based on the time of day, the customer’s demographic and browsing history, not to mention the opportunity to gain even deeper insights and analytics than ever before. Even items can be used to trigger beacon technology, displaying images, reviews or videos about each product the consumer approaches.
The beacon-detecting app could also be taken a step further by facilitating contactless payments. By creating a profile on the app, shoppers will also have the option to exchange other information, including payment information. Once you’ve chosen the item of your liking, it’s tracked and charged directly through your mobile device. No physical payment necessary.
A recent report by Business Insider suggests that beacons will drive $44 billion in retail sales this year — a 1000% increase over 2015. And with companies like Google and Apple working diligently to develop the framework, it’s hard not to get on board with the opportunities surrounding it. Beacon technology has the potential to dramatically change the way brands communicate with customers. The only question that remains is how your business will utilize it.