Local Media Companies Need To Jump On Beacons

There’s more to these Bluetooth devices than just sending shelf-level coupons to consumers’ smartphones, says Borrell Associates.

Local media companies that have been struggling to bring their traditional methods of serving ads and coupons into the digital age should consider beacons. As consumer eyes continue to shift to their mobile devices, Gordon Borrell, CEO of research and consulting firm Borrell Associates, argues that now is the right time for newspapers, radio stations, and other media organizations to start experimenting with the Bluetooth technology.

Borrell held a webinar that addressed media companies and ad agencies in particular, and provided a synopsis of the current and potential happenings in the beacon space. In a subsequent conversation, Borrell offered some advice to as to how local publishers can augment their ad sales by considering beacons as a new marketing and content platform.

Gordon Borrell
Gordon Borrell

GeoMarketing: Beacons are still an emerging tool for strictly indoor marketing between brands and retailers. What role do publishers have to play?

Gordon Borrell: [The beacon] is a new medium — and it makes the smartphone much more of a medium because it really does make it interactive with businesses. If it’s going to be as big as we really think it is then, there are going to be entire companies in local markets that become the beacon agency.

This isn’t just for a retailer, this is for your [media company]. You could use it to sell more newspaper subscriptions or get more viewers to your TV show or more listeners to your [radio] show. You could make some really cool and interactive [features] on your station or for your newspaper.

As you do that you’re serving the core product; you’re understanding how it actually works and learning the technology of it all. Next, you take it out to retailers and say, “Look, we did this for our company and here are the results.”

We’re used to seeing beacons in the retail space, where they’re most commonly used to push in-store deals and ads. What other use cases exist for beacon-based messaging for local media outlets?

There are many, many different applications. The first and easiest one for us to think about, because this is the business model we’re ingrained with, is in pushing an advertisement to somebody. But I think it’s going to go well beyond that. If you have a large store or a large venue you can actually see the movements of people, where they go and where they congregate.

For the Cleveland Indians for instance, when they used it at one of their games, they noticed that there was a huge line at “door A” and so they were able to buzz people and say “No line at door C.”  If you’ve ever been to a big sports event then you know lines are a problem.

How does that translate into a retail/advertising/marketing context?

A typical store owner is not really going to think about this, they’re going to think, “Oh, I could push a message out to somebody who just walked in the store.”

But what if they put a beacon at the door and at the cash register and they integrated with some company that pushes out messages across any one of 200 apps so a that very high likelihood that anybody who walks in the door can get buzzed. That store has the ability to buzz [consumers] with a message across one of those participating apps. The person walks into the store and the beacon at the door recognizes them and does nothing. The beacon at the cash register waits for them to bump into that which means they’re buying something but what if they don’t and they approach the beacon at the door? That’s a person who’s about to leave, right? That’s when they get buzzed. It’s a buzz that says, “Don’t leave; here’s a coupon.”

You don’t want to give that coupon to the person who just walks in the door, you want to give it to the person that is about to leave. If you sort of triangulate all that stuff — the smartphone, the door beacon, and the cash register beacon — you have something. That’s where the creativity comes in.

There’s also other things you can do with them like monitoring the user data so that you can know, of the people who come into your surf store you can say, which bumped into your beacon and which bumped into the one at the airport. You could then know which surfers travel, and maybe offer a travel package and push that message out to that group of people.

Collecting user data and merging it with other bits of information about them make [beacons] a really, really powerful marketing tool.

What is your advice to media companies who are eager to roll out beacons?

You don’t need to do this tomorrow, you just need to start studying more about it. It’s going to take a long time so first in is kind of good but you’ve got quite a bit of time to do that. Let some other people take the lumps first before you really figure out what it is. You need to pull together a strategy team, maybe an executive leadership team. Let’s get the key people on the same page. By the end of the year have a strategy, and by the first quarter of next year, implement something with a beacon not for retailers but for yourself. Then, by this time next year think about doing something with retailers.