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.

Beacons can act as “cookies” of the physical world, giving indications on the physical places that consumers visit, provided the users have given consent for the app to capture their location. By passively tracking behaviors through aggregated and anonymous location data, brands can gain meaningful insights on their customers’ behaviors in the real world.

In the longer run, beacons will also facilitate attribution of offline performance to mobile marketing by matching data on mobile ads and in-store purchases.

However, as always with new mobile technologies, marketers tend to overhype opportunities and forget to put the customer at the center of their strategies. Part of the problem with beacon technologies is that many marketers are confused about what they are: they believe there is a lot of intelligence in the beacons themselves. The reality is that beacons are dumb pieces of hardware that simply communicate location information that can be interpreted by mobile applications. Marketers will be tempted to try to push advertising messages through beacons directly to smartphones, but intelligence and engagement will come from marketers’ ability to deliver deep and immediate value to customers by contextualizing their offerings in real time.

This will require more effort than most marketers are ready to deliver today.

Marketing leaders must resist the hype and think strategically and responsibly about how — and if — to implement beacon marketing programs.

For more information, clients can read our new report to explore the potential of beacon marketing and the steps that marketers need to take to make the most of this location-based marketing tactic.