Virgin Atlantic rolled out an iBeacon trial in the Upper Class Wing at London’s Heathrow Airport. The beacon was purposed at proffering tailored messages to iPhone using consumers, informing them about in-flight entertainment options and subtle reminders of getting checked in or collecting the boarding pass.

Beacons lifted mobile marketing to a new angle with the precision of data and strategically crafted content at the right time. With beacon technology revolutionising offline retail, Facebook went a step ahead by integrating it with the big bad social world.

In case you aren’t aware, beacon is a Bluetooth low energy device that allows proximity based targeting by enabling communication with beacon enabled handsets in the range.

Creating yet another tangible offline bridge, Facebook launched Place Tip; with this initiative, Facebook supplied free beacons to 100 retailers in New York. When consumers came within the reach of this beacon, information about that store flashed on the top of their Facebook timeline.

Facebook dodged two major beacon tech oriented issues – getting consumers to download a new app and the annoyance of additional push notifications. Harshil Karia, Managing Director, Schbang shared that Facebook has been touting offer driven marketing to users checking into malls from quite some time. Beacons will allow retailers to really get customized offer per consumer and offer it in a hyper targeted fashion to convert to sale.

While brands debate whether to beacon or not to beacon, there is no denying to the fact that there is a huge need gap in this communication space.

US based departmental store, Macy’s experimented with iBeacons through their app Shopkick. On entering consumers were greeted with tailored deals and items they would be interested in.

iBeacon

Prashanth Challapalli, Sr. Vice President & Digital Head, iContract expressed that studies indicate that while 70 per cent of customers are on their mobile screens while shopping, only 30 per cent of retail brands have in-store technology to tap touch point.

Beacon empowers brands to own space in consumers’ cell phones; it is as social as it gets; albeit, tech constraints to reach this space are the hardest to battle. Bluetooth is almost dead now. Additionally, to get consumers to get to download an additional app for a beacon is extremely difficult.

“It has to be a combination of things,” opines Challapalli. “The best way to get a consumer’s attention is to give them free Wi-Fi. To get a beacon app downloaded, consumers could be offered free internet or other such utility.”

Instead of creating a new app for beacons, brands could tie up with the existing apps domination the users’ mobile space. This implies going beyond social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Try this, if a fashion brand ties up with an e-commerce app such as Flipkart, Myntra or Jabong – thus offering communication through a utility app.

When you decide to beacon

If you decide to beacon, carve your way with utter expertise. Latest beacon technology advocates generous investment; create tangible business goals for efficient RoI. Additionally, with each notification attach a functional value for the user – there has to be experience and utility in every move.

Chetan Asher, Founder & CEO, Tonic Media expressed that while the mobile content cannot be mirrored on the brand’s social platforms, the social media channels can be used to educate users.

“Beacon is rather new in India,” said Ahser. “Social media should be used to trigger the first level reaction – getting the users to the store. Brands can also create awareness around the beacon in-store facilities that the consumers will be greeted with through social pages.”

A beacon solution that managed to shape up is a beacon server – a single utility app that would curate signals from all beacons in the vicinity. However, the business value of the beacon server would be determined by how many beacons a given locality or mall has.

Food for thought

Picture this, a brand on the scale of Big Bazaar flashes out a privileged sale offer for consumers in the beacon vicinity. With the power of technology, traditional retail could rekindle the spark with right alliances and forces.


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