There has been something of a dramatic surge in the number of blogs and articles being written over the last few months with regards to beacons and their effect on local search and the general consensus is that proximity marketing is set to have an unavoidably significant affect on the way that we target, influence, monitor and interact with our potential customers on a daily basis.
If we are to become effective players in this new advertising arena then there are a number of things that will need to be mastered along the way to ensure success. However, the way that this new technology will be used in order to serve our requirements and reach the needs of our target audience is not necessarily obvious at first glance.
So, What Exactly Are Beacons And How Do They Work?
A beacon is a tiny transmitter which can communicate directly with any Bluetooth enabled device within close range. The growing list of devices and personal equipment which are compatible with this technology includes everything from mobile phones and tablets, through to headphones, smartwatches and keep-fit bracelets.
Communications between the beacon and the device receiving the transmitted information are typically handled by means of a downloadable app – although Google are currently researching new methods of transmitting data which will bypass the need for a separate app altogether. However, before expressing your concerns over privacy you should be aware that this service is by no means forced on a user – the service is only provided to those who choose to opt-in and activate it.
How Does Proximity Marketing Work?
Up until now, the discovery of a user’s location by means of acquiring the geographical coordinates of their internet enabled device has been restricted to GPS data – which is ideal for finding street addresses and buildings from the outside – but not as effective once a person has gone inside a building or entered an enclosed outdoor space.
However, by using beacons – a person with a Bluetooth device can be pinpointed to an exact region just a few metres away and data can be transmitted to and received from the individual in real-time which means that a retailer can monitor the precise movements of shoppers, whilst simultaneously providing useful information and virtual special offer coupons for products which somebody is standing right next to.
Are Beacons Annoying or Interruptive? And Just How Useful Are They?
Although many people will immediately jump to the conclusion that beacons will only serve to intrude on a customer’s shopping trip by interrupting them every two minutes with yet another special offer for a product that they are physically close to but have no interest in, the reality is set to be quite different.
Instead of encouraging people to switch their Bluetooth connections off so that they will be left in peace, successful proximity marketers will be able to use the technology to enrich people’s lives and improve their retail shopping experiences.
Once a user has enabled Push Notifications on a downloaded app, the search provider knows that the potential customer is actively seeking help and information based on their current location and can deliver relevant content accordingly. For example, reviews and recommendations from other shoppers can be delivered to a device when a customer approaches a space where a number of best selling items are situated. Directions to the location of a product that a customer wants to buy can also be sent to a device upon request.
As well as providing offers and useful Information, a Bluetooth device user can also be monitored as an anonymous entity who is making their way around a building and this data can be incredibly important once it has been collected.
A retailer can discover at a glance, which in-store displays are attracting the most attention and at which particular time of day – enabling adjustments to be made as and when required in which take advantage of this information.
For example, if there is a statue in a museum or an exhibition which is proving to be an instant hit with visitors, it can be moved to a more valuable area where it might tempt people to visit a gift shop or lure them to a coffee bar. Frictionless payments can also be handled via Bluetooth depending on the type of beacon management software an outlet employs.
What Proximity Marketing Means For Search
Of course, there’s a lot more to iBeacons and proximity marketing than simply firing out special offer coupons to potential customers or raising awareness of the latest deals. Beacons can also be used to add contextual value at special events, such as trade shows and product launches, which can be significantly enhanced and enriched by means of close range content delivery.
The type of content can also be transformed to add extra value to an experience. For example, audio streams such as spoken descriptions can be delivered to a device, such as a phone or a pair of Bluetooth enabled headphones, and this audio can be triggered to play just as a device owner approaches an object of special interest such as a picture in a gallery or the latest, top of the range sports car at a motor show.
Search content itself can be updated spontaneously, in real-time, in order to deliver up-to-the-minute search results for highly localized events which are taking place in-store at any given moment. With a projected 400 million new beacons being installed at various events and locations across the planet over the next 12 months, we will see a massive increase in the number of companies and organizations using ultra-localized PPC campaigns which will need to be expertly managed in order to create maximum impact and provide valued results.
We will also start to see some of the bigger companies taking control of their SEO campaigns by optimizing their products and services themselves instead of leaving the majority of the groundwork to the individual retailers and resellers who are distributing goods for them.
For example, if you are searching online for a new kettle or toaster, then the manufacturing company itself will be able to guide you to their latest models whilst offering special discounts that will encourage you to keep their app enabled.
Hopefully, they will get the balance right and our lives will be changed for the better!