Getting started with beacons - What is a Beacon?
(Note, this article is intended for readers new to beacons, for a deeper and more technical discussion of deployment considerations, technical specifications and implementation information, please have a look at this article.)
A beacon is a small, inconspicuous hardware device that is periodically sends out a signal which is basically intended to say "here i am". It is designed to provide this signal to devices that enter its' operating range and are listening for the signal via Bluetooth technology. Beacons transmit their signal utilizing the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) protocol. BLE allows for much lower power consumption than traditional Bluetooth because it allows devices to be connected without needing to send a continuous stream of data. In the specific case of Beacons, the device that 'hears' the beacon's signal doesn't actually 'connect' to the beacon, instead it simply records it contact with that beacon. For example, just as in the case of WiFi networks, if you have WiFi enabled on a mobile device and you get within range of a WiFi network, that mobile device will recognize the WiFi network and list it under it's available networks section, the beacon interaction fundamentally works the same way. This capability allows for a number of interesting interactions with consumers that we will describe in this article.
Typically uses for beacons
Normally you would deploy beacons to identify when customers are in proximity of specific areas such as the front door of your location, near a specific department, or maybe near a specific product or product set. As a mobile device picks up the signal from a given beacon you might choose to interact with that device as it enters the beacons range, after the device has remained in range for a given period, or when the device leaves range. A very simple, but typical interaction might be when a beacon is placed at the front door of your retail location and the customer's device picks up the signal you might send them a push notification welcoming them back to the store. Extending this scenario, instead of simply welcoming them, you might additionally take them into your mobile application when they click on the push notification and present to them content such as offers or advertisements. The simple example might look like this:
(Note: In order to deliver content, data connectivity, whether from the cellular network or WiFi must be present)
Getting started with beacons - What's needed?
In order to interact with your customers utilizing beacons, you will need to have several key components;
1) The beacons
- You will need to select a beacon provider, popular providers include Radius Networks, Blue Cats, and Kontakt to name a few, Plexure has worked with a number of different vendors in the industry and can certainly provide some guidance in selecting one. These vendors can help you select the right type of beacon for your specific need and take into account battery life, availability of power, placement considerations, and the right way to configure the beacons themselves to maximize interaction while conserving power as much as possible.
2) A mobile device with your mobile app
- You will need to deploy your mobile app onto your consumers devices and that mobile app will need to have the necessary functionality to retrieve and send the beacon data to a back end system that will initiate the communication with the consumer
- If you have an mobile app already, you would just need to embed the Plexure SDK into that application to allow for these interactions, if you don't you will need to select a mobile app developer. Plexure has worked with a number of app developers in the market and can help provide guidance in your selection if needed.
3) A back end CRM or Personalization platform
- This is the component that will determine when and how to interact with your consumer and then initiate that interaction. For example, in the scenario outlined above, once the mobile device recognized the beacon signal, that data would be transferred back to the Plexure platform where the platform would first initiate a push notification to the customer and then when the consumer clicked on that notification take them into the mobile app to present the desired content that was configured on the Plexure platform
There are a number of considerations to take into account when determining how best to deploy beacons to support a broader digital marketing strategy, Plexure has a long history in the space helping retailers embarking on this journey, contact Plexure to see how we can help you start today!