Beacons have a great deal of disruptive potential as they bridge the digital and physical worlds. I quite like this quote from Steve Cheney, SVP at Estimote: “Beacons as a platform are really a wedge into ‘appifying’ the physical world. They give context to a physical space. They are a way of actually extending the network intelligence to the edge again, something that has been missing since the desktop era. Beacons are truly a way of giving your smartphone eyes—place dumb signs around you and let your phone discover and read them.”
Beacon technology offers new opportunities for marketers across a wide range of industries and verticals. In particular, they enable marketers to:
Engage consumers in their mobile moments via in-app interactions.
Improve the customer experience.
Understand customer behaviors by leveraging analytics.
The Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) role is changing significantly: I&O pros are increasingly helping to drive business strategies with the technologies they choose and implement. Business leaders tell Forrester that technology is too important to leave to technology managers alone; they are pushing their I&O colleagues to explore the business value associated with the technologies they choose, implement, and manage. I&O pros, in turn, tell us that their jobs are changing. As one I&O pro put it, “I’ve been an infrastructure manager for 15 years, but only in the past 3 have I been asked to construct a business plan and be part of the business planning team.”
Figure: Burberry's Technology-Powered Flagship Store In London
For I&O pros in retail and related verticals like hospitality (or for anyone involved in creating in-person experiences), we’ve just released a report to help aid this transition. Along with my co-author Michele Pelino, we’ve just released the report “Infrastructure Will Drive The Retail Store Experiences Of The Future.” The report asserts that I&O pros have an important role to play in helping their companies engage shoppers in experiences that will drive loyalty and spending.
There is no hotter topic in retail today than beacons. These small objects which transmit location information to smartphones based on Bluetooth Low Energy have transformed our retail imagination, conjuring up visions of continuous offers being showered onto customers as they walk the aisles of their favorite grocery store. The reality is more subdued. We are still very early in the development of location strategies that leverage beacons and the iBeacon protocol, and retailers need to solve for a variety of challenges such as customer privacy, beacon maintenance, connectivity, and campaign management.
Beacons require the right combination of hardware and software. BLE is required as beacons leverage the Bluetooth hardware found on most new smartphones. A mobile app is also required to interface with the beacons, transmitting the location information provided by the beacon to a server, and then receiving the appropriate content back from the server to display on the customer’s mobile device.
Beacons enable rich experiences beyond offers. We all enjoy saving money, and pushing offers to us via beacons will be a popular use case. However it is possible to offer a deeper level of engagement. Based on location, retailers can allow the ability to unlock dressing rooms, authenticate a mobile payment, or provide enhanced service such as preparing your favorite latte as you enter your local coffee shop.