Scalable Success with Beacons: 3 Qualified Business Cases
Beacons have the potential to reshape the way customers interact with brands — but marketers need to walk before they can run.
Geofencing is one of the fastest growing products in the programmatic industry. It’s effective, scalable, and available for virtually every advertiser. But as the sales leader for a localized programmatic platform, I often get questions from marketers about beacons showing that, despite effectiveness, there’s still confusion about usage, deployment, and scalability.
Beacons are a brilliant technology. They have the potential to help change the way users interact with specific applications through customized ad content and push notifications, but haven’t caught on with the mainstream market because they can be difficult to scale.
This doesn’t mean some companies haven’t experienced success with beacons. Sports teams such as the Orlando Magic are using beacons to drive ticket sales. Live Nation Entertainment has linked to electronic wristbands for entrance to music festivals and payments, as well as personalized ad experiences. But here’s the kicker: These major success stories have one thing in common — they already have proprietary apps with large amounts of downloads.
Professional sports teams such as the Magic, use their apps for managing tickets, ordering food and drink from concession stands, and for delivering unique content to enhance the users’ game experience. Music festivals, like many other events, use their proprietary apps for event entry, as well as giving attendees access to important event information such as music schedules and venue maps. With all these features, it’s almost impossible for users to resist downloading the app, providing marketers access to the large user-base needed to support a successful beacon strategy.
But right now in the development of beacon technology, not every company should expect such success.
Baby Steps For Most Businesses
To be successful with a proprietary app, companies must have a large number of users and downloads in order to see scalable success. And at this point in time, the number of companies that have such apps are fewer than the number of companies who are willing to jump at beacon integration. With these resources, the only other way would be to get their SDK in enough third-party apps to build a user-base large enough to support a successful beacon strategy.
That said, there is some hope for companies that want to utilize beacons but don’t have the app resources. Facebook has given out free beacons this year to business owners at their request. While this is a step, business owners must go on a waiting list and can’t extend their digital footprint into a proprietary app, losing another touch point for users’ exposure to their brand. Other companies have developed what they call “infrastructure sharing” allowing marketers to leverage third-party apps that users happen to have already downloaded. Again, while this is a nudge in the right direction, the technology is only compatible with the company’s beacons and limit marketers’ brand exposure.
Ideal Use Cases
The question is: who can experience scalable success with beacons other than the examples above?
In short, companies need control over almost every aspect of their beacon infrastructure in order to really see the technology work in their favor, meaning they must own the app, venue, and resources involved to see the success they are looking for.
With these stipulations, who can take advantage of beacons today other than pro sports teams and festival promoters? Let’s take a look at a few more prime candidates:
- Theme Parks
There isn’t an organization more prime for optimizing beacon success than theme parks. Today, visitors rely on the park’s proprietary apps to keep track of shuttle timetables, maps, tickets, “fast passes” for rides and shows, and more. Disney’s “MagicBands” can even charge purchases with the swipe of a wrist. It’s almost impossible to visit the park without using the park’s app, fast passes, or wristbands, making beacons a perfect location-marketing strategy that is scalable and effective.
- Conferences and Tradeshows
Events of this type have a level of control over venue and resources making them prime candidates for successful beacon strategies. Most large conferences now have their own apps for keeping attendees up-to-date on event and speaking times, conference FAQs, parking and lodging information, etc. Like theme parks, attendees almost can’t function in the conference without downloading the app, meaning these types of businesses already have a high concentration of users who have downloaded their app and are interacting at various booths and speaking halls. Beacons would allow conference producers to know how users interact at the event and enhance the attendees’ experience by providing personalized content via the conference app.
- Media Groups
One of the most prime candidates for a scalable, successful beacon program hasn’t realized it yet: media groups. In fact, these companies already have a massive infrastructure of proprietary app users and locations to create a localized beacon strategy. Television broadcasters, newspaper publishers, and radio networks all have multiple apps within their media network they can leverage to further engage with their audience: apps for weather, news, sports apps, etc. Media companies could even work to give beacons to their local clients. Customers who visit these locations can be encouraged to download these media apps to increase the media companies’ brand exposure and provide a platform for local businesses to utilize beacons. It’s a win-win situation for both.
As beacon technologies progress, we can expect to see more organizations with the potential to produce successful beacon strategies. Yet it seems the doorway isn’t quite open yet for all as most of the ad world is reliant on distributing their SDK amongst a host of third-party apps they can’t control. But if an organization can own their own infrastructure by having their app downloaded by a large number users, then they are a perfect candidate for a beacon strategy today.
**James Moore is the Chief Revenue Officer for Simpli.fi, which brings the power of programmatic to advertising to localized campaigns. Since the mid 90’s James has been involved in leading companies who are paving new paths in digital space.