The entire planet is going mobile with almost 4.5 billion mobile phones and 1.75 billion smartphones, according to a report by eMarketer. As the planet plugs into mobile a new generation of apps is changing how we consume media, how we shop, how we spend our time and how we communicate with ourselves and others. Traditional mass media will soon be overshadowed by mobile and according to research company, Nielsen, 89% of consumer media time is now spent in mobile apps.

The introduction of beacon technology creates another promising superpower to the mobile line-up. Beacon is a two part technology. The first part consists of beacon devices which businesses can install into stores, stadiums, museums and so on. These beacons can communicate with iOS or Android devices that have the relevant app installed. Customers must opt-in by having Bluetooth-enabled on their phones.

As we know the mobile experience is a highly personal one and whilst customers expect location-based marketing to some degree, they are also very sensitive to it. The challenge for marketers is how to leverage in-store beacons to create mobile campaigns that deliver effective location-aware messages, without overstepping the privacy mark.

If you’re dipping your toe into this exciting new technology, here are a few considerations:

  • Beacons should be one element of an integrated communications strategy – As one of the new shiny toys in the marketing tool kit, it can be tempting to give beacons a try without first understanding how they fit into your overall marketing strategy.
  • Use the technology to enhance the customer experience – The essence of beacons’ superpower is rooted in the ability for marketers to deliver mobile, location-based messaging in a relevant and timely way. Beacons can improve the customer experience in traditional retail outlets by delivering content the shopper will use while they are in the store. Earlier this year the coffee shop brand, EAT, began trials of beacons to send opted-in push notifications to customers with offers and product-related content.
  • Capture the data – beacons open up opportunities for marketing to deliver better customer experiences – if you capture the data. Beacons can tell you exactly when a customer walks through the door and can then help track the customer’s journey through the store. For example, when that customer walks in the door, beacons trigger a reminder to use their grocery list and loyalty card saved in the customer’s favourite shopping app. As they walk up and down the aisles, additional in-store beacons track the time they spend lingering by the cereals in the organic foods section.
  • Create user engagement and promote company values – ensure that all mobile applications enabled with beacon technology drive and create high customer interaction and engagement. The Pocket App team recently developed and designed an application for Argos to communicate the company’s brand values to its staff and partners. Utilising Beacon technology users were able to unlock additional content throughout the app based on their location at an internal company event. Users were able to unlock the 4 core values of Argos and once unlocked, users could access a wealth of digital content, including images, videos and supporting text.
  • Manage your beacon estate – it’s all very well deploying your beacons estate but who’s going to manage it? How will you know if the individual sensors are in the correct place? What if one stops working? Is it the responsibility of the store manager to fix it? This might not seem important but if beacons are part of an overall communications strategy, and you are using the data to remarket to customers and enhance the overall experience, keeping the estate fully functioning is vital.

As marketers consider beacon technology and the role it can play in their strategy, they should start with an understanding of the technology and its ability to drive enriched customer experiences. Also, marketers should prepare for the insights returned from data that beacons capture. Starting with these beacon basics will inform and direct a mobile strategy that fully capitalises on the technology.