The following is a summarized version of our larger "A Beacon of Hope" white paper. Download the full version here.
Game changing. Revolutionary. Mind-bending potential. There’s no shortage of hyperbole about beacon technology, which has taken the retail world by storm. Beacons enable businesses to perceive where their customers are located and send messages and offers based on that information.
A BI Intelligence report noted that beacons will drive $44 billion in retail sales through 2016, up from $4 billion in 2015. Like marketers across every industry, event producers are incorporating beacons at festivals, amusement parks and sporting venues. For example, Major League Baseball is using beacons in 20 stadiums to provide maps, video clips, concession specials and upgrade seats.
What Exactly Are Beacons?
Business Insider’s Beacons FAQ defines a beacon as “a small wireless device that constantly broadcasts radio signals to nearby smartphones and tablets.”
Basically, a beacon sends out a low energy Bluetooth signal that can be picked up by apps on mobile devices in the area. When the mobile device comes into range, the beacon triggers a response in the app -- it can even “wake up” an app that isn’t running. This way, you can send location- and time-based offers, info and notifications to your customers or audience.
What Can You Use Beacons For?
In a Harvard Business Review article, author Chuck Martin explains how beacons are changing the shopping experience across many industries. In our white paper, we give you three real-life examples that demonstrate the unique value that beacon technology can bring to your conferences and events. These case studies show how today's event producers are using beacons to extend attendee engagement, make signs work harder, and facilitate connections between event attendees.
Practical and Technical Challenges
So what’s next for beacons? There is momentum behind the technology, but adoption is still comparatively low. Despite the extraordinary opportunities beacons present, there remain a few factors that can make their application tricky for businesses.
Technical challenges include the fact that beacon signals are one-way only, offering simple data-oriented signals that must be controlled locally. Practical hurdles include risks of the physical beacon devices being lost or damaged. In addition, there are issues with objects blocking signals, and limited geographic range. Our white paper download describes solutions to each of these dilemmas, ranging from high-tech to downright old-fashioned.
No Silver Bullet, but Progress
It’s tempting to just run with a technology that has so much potential. But to keep beacons from being a flash-in-the-pan (R.I.P. QR codes), the industry must work on the barriers to an easy user experience. It's essential to hit the sweet spot with push notification frequency, fulfilling user interest without becoming annoying.
These devices will continue to become smarter and more connected. The next generation will combine multiple technologies to allow for the additional benefits of cognitive computing on a mesh beacon network. A Paris-based industry example shows how mesh beacons are being deployed to communicate with the cloud and with each other and Facebook is building mesh networks to bring rural areas online. The era of mesh beacons will enable smarter, real-time, two-way communication between the physical and digital worlds, increasing simplicity for consumers and marketers.
Although we’re still in the early days, we see a beacon of hope here. Personalization is arguably the most important driver in modern marketing, and beacon technology is the most powerful way to personalize your message. For beacon technology to succeed, however, it has to be done right. In this case, “doing it right” means paying attention to technical and practical challenges, business needs and customer experience in equal measure.
Download our white paper, A Beacon of Hope, today and learn from real-life examples of how beacon technology's disruptive power can open up new marketing possibilities for your events.
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