Beacon Technology: Harnessing the Power of Proximity Marketing

October 19, 2018

By: Magento
Beacon Technology

What if there was a technology that allowed you to contact potential buyers as they strolled by your place of business. You could send them personalized messages about promotions, new products, or cutting-edge information? Beacon technology is making this possible. It involves a simple device that can be placed in locations to capture consumers in a new marketing wave called proximity marketing.  

While this technology was slow to start, it has gained a second round of interest. With time and improvements, this type of marketing is once again becoming more essential to businesses and advertisers. Many retail giants have already started using beacons and iBeacons in their stores to directly target nearby consumers. With the release of the Google Eddystone platform, also known as Google Beacon, more businesses can utilize this highly effective technology. The Google Beacon project aims to help businesses directly target their consumers and allow them to see detailed analytics of how effective their advertising really is.

What Is a Google Beacon and How Does It Work?

The definition of a beacon is an instrument used to transmit signals one way. The Google Beacon is a small battery-powered device that is readable by nearby Bluetooth energy technology such as smart phones and tablets. The beacon works within a certain radius. Functioning similar to cell towers, the beacon emits a signal to smartphones and tablets within the radius. Signals can alert users of special offers or other information sent by beacons in their vicinity.

The beacon device can be set up in a physical store and paired with an AdWords account. This increases your chances of showing up on a Google search when a user is close by. The signal that is emitted by the beacon is sent out to any user within the vicinity that has their location services turned on (for Google Nearby or an app if using an iPhone). The beacon will not store the customer’s information. It is a one-way transmitter. Having said this, you do not need GDPR compliance with your beacon setup.

 

Beacon Infographic

 

How Does Google Beacon Target Consumers?

So, what makes this different from previous marketing tactics, like text advertising? 

Since the beacon can reach up to a 250-foot radius, Placing a beacon at the front of a store or outside could send information to those walking or even driving past your place of business. 

Both large and small businesses can place multiple beacons around selected areas such as stores, theaters, malls, sporting events, or airports to send out information to devices in that vicinity. Mobile users can then engage with, or use the info for directions, turn by turn navigation, discounts, or other promotions. 

Beacon technology can also be used to track consumers time in specific locations, such as the time spent on a certain shopping isle.

Whereas previous beacon technology needed an additional app on the user’s device to convey the message, Google has cut out the middleman with its Eddystone integration. Proximity marketing is now gaining in popularity and usefulness. This targeted marketing technology creates ads that are directly relevant to users, making it much more effective than traditional mass marketing. Directed relevant marketing ads will capture more of the consumers’ attention since they are harnessing both localization and personalization. The ads will appear less like spam and more like a friendly reminder on deals, promotions, and information that you don’t want to miss.

What Are the Benefits of Proximity Marketing?

  • Localized Targeting – The beacon sends information or specials with location alerts once the consumer is within the proximity of the beacon.
  • Elevated Reporting – This allows business owners who are connected to both Google beacon and Google Ads to get even more data.
  • Track Ad Response – Businesses can track how many people are responding to ads and becoming customers. This creates tangible success metrics for how an ad campaign is working for both their physical stores and eCommerce platforms.
  • Tracking Timing – Beacon technologies can improve the accuracy of popular foot traffic times, and track how long customers are staying within the vicinity or store.
    • With timing data, this allows the business to leverage how many people are on staff, when to send out notifications, and the best times to run sales.


How Does Eddystone (Android/Google Nearby) Send Messages to Devices?

There are 3 different ways:

  1. Takes the user to an Advertised URL – The user opens the URL in their search browser and navigates directly to the content/website. Does not require an App, but you still have to make sure Google Nearby is turned on to receive the message.
  2. Opens a pre-existing app – Installed on the phone. If the app isn’t on their device, the user is sent to a page where they can add the app to their device. This is called a “Web Fallback”  and businesses can set these themselves.
  3. Initiates an app installation – This sends the user to the Play Store for an app install. A fallback URL is not required. URLS of this type require explicit whitelisting from Google (source).


How to Set up a Google Beacon

After receiving your beacon, you will need to configure it, register it with Google and then figure out what messages you want to send. That is just a brief outline of the steps. The developers at Google have a more detailed list about working with your beacon and collecting its vital customer information. Click here to read the full set up of the Google Beacon.          

Google Beacon is hoping to provide a better option for this technology. As stated on their developer’s website, Google plans to “give your users better location and proximity experiences by providing a strong context signal for their devices in the form of Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons with Eddystone, the open beacon format from Google. The Google beacon platform enables you to manage your beacons remotely, integrate with Google services and help users’ devices to discover content and functionality across Android, native apps, and the web.”

In simple terms, Google is giving businesses an advantage by making their platform inclusive of all the features you are enjoying when using Google Ads and much more. You can also remotely check on your devices if they aren’t at your location. Settings and battery power can all be accessed from a remote location.

How Can I Get a Google Beacon for My Business?

As part of their development of the Beacon project, Google has been sending out test beacons to physical businesses. Many of these businesses have Google AdWords accounts or use other Google business features. They can then pair the new beacon technology with their existing accounts to see how much the Google Beacon Platform can greatly improve their marketing strategies. Businesses can also request test beacons from Google, or purchase beacons from any Google partner that carries beacon hardware and supports the Google platform, Eddystone.  A list google approved beacons is available here.

FAQs

What is the difference between a Google Beacon and an iBeacon?

Google Beacon (Eddystone) – Targets Android users with phones that are models 4.3 and beyond.
iBeacon – Works with both iPhone devices and Android devices. These DO need a dedicated app to communicate with iPhone.
Note: Many Beacon companies such as Bluvision have Software Development Kits (SDKs) to help integrate with an end-user’s mobile app.

Does Google Beacon work on Apple devices?

No. At this time Google Beacons only work with android devices that are models 4.3 and higher. 

Can beacons work on iPhone and Apple devices?

Yes, but you must purchase an iBeacon to cater to both iPhone users and Android users. Justin Clary from Bluvision was able to add additional insight - “Beacons are able to work with both iPhones and Google/Android, however both options have their own protocol in order to communicate to the mobile device.... iPhones utilize the iBeacon protocol while Android/Google utilizes the Eddystone protocol.”

Do I need to create an app for my business to use beacon technology?

The short answer is yes, and no. 

Android Users
Beacon technology can now directly target phone users because most phones already come with a built-in service called Google Nearby. The location settings within devices will need to be turned on for this application to work. You also must have the application on your phone. “Google Nearby allows notifications to pop up in the drop-down menu on the phone instead of having an app installed,” says Bluvision. Here is some more info on google nearby: https://developers.google.com/nearby/notifications/overview

iPhone Users
While using an iBeacon with an iPhone you will need to download an app in order to send notifications to a users’ phone.

Many devices such as Bluvision’s BEEKs Beacons (one of the recommend partners listed on the Google page) have the capability to do both. However, you will need to create an app and use the SDK to complete the setup.

“BEEKs can be centrally managed through the cloud to transfer new messages, firmware updates, and battery status checks remotely. Their unique design allows BEEKs to broadcast reliably even in densely populated WiFi environments.”

This will allow signals to be sent out to iPhone users.  

Why Is Proximity Marketing and Beacon Technology Important to eCommerce?

According to statista.com, retail eCommerce sales totaled a staggering $4.99 trillion in 2017, and are expected to reach heights of well over $5 trillion in the coming years.

So, what do Google Beacon and iBeacon mean for web stores? Right now, this technology is marketed as a physical device that is very helpful for businesses with actual physical storefronts. However, there are no restrictions on where the beacon can be placed. 

Beacon technology has revealed that it can be beneficial to a variety of businesses. Beacon can help eCommerce businesses cut through competition with localization. Being able to market to select people in specific high-traffic areas could give eCommerce companies a serious advantage. This technology gives businesses the ability to directly target potential customers in various locations. A business with no physical presence can locate their beacons in physical structures such as malls to ping out offers to potential buyers. For businesses with both an online and physical presence, companies can use location-based marketing to direct customers to online products that may not be readily available in their stores. This could be especially helpful during peak seasons like Black Friday and Christmas (source).

The benefits of proximity marketing using beacon technology have the potential to greatly improve both eCommerce and brick-and-mortar businesses. Beacon technology is fine-tuning the art of advertising. This new marketing technology provides tangible numbers and analytics that tell businesses what’s working, and what’s not. Beyond that, it registers what campaigns actually capture the consumer’s attention. This can prove to be very impactful for both B2B and B2C consumers. Working with a platform that can ping smartphones and tablets without having to chase down each customer, is like putting direct, relevant advertising into the hands of each and every customer. Beacon technology and the Google Beacon platform have the potential to change the effectiveness and potential of proximity marketing.

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