What is beacon marketing? Beacon marketing is the use of small devices (known as beacons) to target customers exactly where they are with offers that meet their needs.
Beacons are placed within retail stores and other brick-and-mortar venues so that very specific offers and communications can be directed to consumers based on where they are physically standing or walking. They can also be used outside physical spaces to encourage people to come in and spend.
Beacons have evolved along with smartphone technology.
Think of it as having a relevant conversation with each customer based on their behavior. For example, someone is in the snack food section. Sending a message about a 20 percent off deal on a new flavor of chips may spark their appetite and boost your sales.
Launched in 2013, beacons have been steadily evolving as Bluetooth technology became more advanced and more consumers use smartphones in their daily lives. More accurate than GPS, beacons enable real-time and more personalized “communication” with customers as they navigate spaces.
The devices themselves are small and wireless and operate on what’s called BLE (or Bluetooth Low Energy) because they use less power than traditional Bluetooth technology.
The cost of a beacon is roughly $25, but can be as low as $10 to 15 in volume. Programming, maintenance, and campaign development can increase that expense, but the investment can quickly be covered by increased sales.
Beacons boost sales and engagement
Today, about 50 percent of the top 100 brands are using beacon marketing as part of their in-store shopping experience.
Some ways brands have used beacons in their marketing are:
- Navigation. For example, Target and the Mall of America inform shoppers exactly where an item can be found. Just as Waze or Google Maps directs you down a road, smart retailers help consumers find what they’re looking for. Beacons have even been used within sports stadiums to help direct people to their seats and concessions.
- Deals and Promotions. Many retail and restaurant brands use beacons to compel people to come inside or buy a specific product utilizing hyper-targeted messaging. These are also known as proximity marketing campaigns.
- Social Media Engagement. Retailer Carrefour saw a boost of 400 percent when they started sending push notifications to customers in 28 stores.
- Expanded Inventory. A retailer may be limited by how much in-store shelf space they have, but they can use beacons to prompt the purchase of other items online. Today’s shopping experience is truly omnichannel, and buyers are used to a combination of in-store and online buying.
- Data Gathering. Beacons on their own can only capture location. But when used in conjunction with mobile apps, they can assemble and use many types of social, demographic, and behavior data to direct personalized offers and products to individual types of consumers. For example, a drug store can remind a shopper to pick up a prescription or a grocery store can prompt someone to buy a food item they bought once before. Plus, the insights a brand gathers from tracking consumer in-store locations can be used to place merchandising and products.
What’s next in beacon marketing?
Beacons can be placed inside LED lighting. Not only do businesses save money on energy and support sustainability initiatives, but they also have a simple and convenient way to place the sensors. Many retailers have also placed beacons within mannequins. The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming alive as devices start to serve communications and marketing purposes beyond their original function.
Beacon marketing is expected to continue to boom, growing at a rate of 45 percent by 2026. Consumers have become more comfortable with brands using data to give them deals and suggestions that are relevant to them and marketers are stepping up to use beacon technology to do just that.
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