“I love pecans!”
That’s the list of my favorite responses to “have you heard about beacons?” since I joined Aequilibrium Software six weeks ago.
Confession: At least two of those were my own blunders (take a wild guess as to which ones).
Let's just say it's exciting to reflect on how much I've learned in under two months at Aequilibrium, which is an advocate for continuously learning and iterating. It's pretty rewarding to have an opportunity to work at the intersection of where “ideation” meets “execution.” For example, last winter, our team was inspired to do something cool with NFCs and beacon technology. That’s how Omni was born—our expert solution to improving engagement in content-rich environments. The story of How Two Geeks Accidentally Built Aequilibrium’s IP with zero waiting and zero waste got me hooked and I started to research what beacon technology was and how it was deployable.
"Every day that I researched beacon technology, I stumbled on more questions than answers."
This is what I know:
Beacons are a unique way to eliminate the disconnect between our physical world and the online mobile world through proximity marketing. When enabled, beacons use Bluetooth technology to detect smartphones nearby that have opted in to receive push notifications and communicate with devices to share relevant information.
This is what I love:
What makes the beacons special is that they provide information to the recipient that is curated based on the context of their environment—where they are, what they’re doing, and what might interest them. Not only is it immersive, but it’s impressive.
So, what does that mean for me and why should I care? More importantly, why should you? Well, would you want to wake up to a future that looks like this, powered by beacons? (I do).
How it works...
[column column="one-third"] 1. Each beacon has a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmitter. It broadcasts radio signals over the air containing unique, location-specific data that a merchant assigns, product info, discounts, and even where to find a pair of shoes in the store. The possibilities and applications are only limited to your imagination.[/column][column column="one-third"] 2. Today's smartphones constantly scan for these radio signals. When a user enters the range of an assigned beacon the app responds with the desired content assigned by the business owner. [/column][column column="one-third"] 3. For example, it can fetch content that is tied to a user's profile or micro-location within an environment. Every time a user interacts with a beacon zone, that information can be captured and turned into valuable customer analytics. [/column]
(Source: How Exactly Does it Work?)
I’m awake, I promise. I whisper to the alarm on my phone because no one else is listening. I can proudly say that I’ve never hit the snooze button, which gives me nine extra minutes to find my transit pass. Was I wearing my ski jacket yesterday? It must be in the pockets. Or rolled up with my yoga bag. But I don’t spend a minute longer dwelling because I’ve got TrackR on my side. I quickly pull up the Find My Stuff app and ping the item so it’s not a guessing game. Found it! I was using my bus pass as a bookmark in my copy of “Zero to One.”
Beacons can help you find valuable stuff, like your bus pass when you slept in on a Monday, and didn't put the clothes from the washer into the dryer. Again.
On my way to my favourite local coffee shop, I can’t help but think back to my chat with Raj Bharti last week where he introduced me to a revolutionary café that is embracing beacons. Coupa Café in Palo Alto uses Estimote beacons and the Downtown app to revolutionize in-store ordering, with the added bonus of having your coffee delivered to your table when it's brewed. Now wouldn’t that be useful! I’m thinking as I inch forward in the morning procession of Pumpkin Spice Latte evangelists.
Beacons let you order a warm cup of coffee when you’re nearby. And they don’t discriminate—even if you’re the guy who pronounces espresso with an x.
I was never one for playing with my food. So naturally, if I can take the gambling and uncertainty out of my lunch, I’m happier. Imagine a lunch where I don’t have to play Food Truck Roulette—the ultimate guessing game of which food truck is down the block. Instead, with beacons, now I can load my favourite vendors in an app and when they’re parked nearby, I get a notification that it’s time to order. Even better, it will notify me if there’s a coupon code waiting for me when I get there!
Beacons alert you when the Earnest Ice Cream Scoop Truck is nearby, to satisfy that mid-afternoon Whiskey Hazelnut craving.
After lunch, my day is on track until I suddenly remember that I was supposed to buy earrings for my mom’s birthday before my next meeting. I don’t have time to do any research, so I rush over to the jewellers. As I’m walking over, my phone buzzes to let me know there has been a new collection released at my preferred jewelry store. Taking this as a sign, I walk in to explore. While all the associates are helping other clients, I have a chance to pull out my phone and walk around the store to get more information about the products in the displays, where beacons enable me to learn more. I feel empowered because I feel like I have a personal shopper with me that's helping me navigate the options. Once I've decided, I’m even more amazed that I can add items to my in-app shopping basket and prepare to pay! I feel good about my decision and a sales associate comes over to give me more confidence in my purchasing decision and helps me finish the payment using a mobile POS.
For the consumer, beacons entice and inform them that newly released products are in stock. For a vendor, beacons help close a sale with meaningful business insights and retarget a customer with more awesome news, like when a new collection has been released.
I’m still looking impressed, and I guess it must be evident because a fellow shopper who is ready to leave circles back to ask: "What’s that you’ve got there?" At first, I think he’s referring to the earrings in my hand but I realize that it’s actually the app on my phone he’s talking about. So I walk him through how I just made my purchase and guide him through the app download process so it turns his phone into a scanner for beacons. Then the fun begins—he’s walking around trying to absorb the information around him with new eagerness as he waits for his product to get wrapped and it becomes clear that with omnichannel retail, even a waiting game can be transformed into a well-rounded consumer journey.
Beacons can be a great conversion tool. Give customers the content they need to make informed decisions to buy or not, then within the same flow, offer them the ability to buy then and there, while you have the highest probability for conversion.
I’m close to the office when I get a text notifying me that my next meeting has been moved to Milano Coffee. Great news! I’m excitedly mapping the best route there when I hear another chime. This time, it’s not just a text. My screen buzzes with a kind but firm reminder: “If you’re texting while walking, have a word with yourself.” The Community Against Preventable Injuries has integrated geofencing technology and set virtual boundaries to keep local citizens safe, with messages that directly target people who are on their phones while walking. I don’t take this message for granted and I tuck my phone back into my pocket as I’m walking. It’s reassuring to know my community cares about me the way my family and friends do.
Geofencing uses GPS coordinates to determine the proximity to a particular region and triggers personalized and important notifications—like the ones that keep you safe.
Before the day is over, I find myself thinking about the Retail West Conference yesterday and the opportunity for beacons to be implemented in larger scale events to help people navigate spaces. The reason I know this works is because recently, Sephora and Eventfuel collaborated to create a seamless experience for conference participants. Beacons were used to expedite the check-in process, navigate attendees to the correct conference halls, and provide real-time updates to organizers about which workshops were popular and which sponsors' banners were getting the most attention. In my opinion, this can elevate an event from memorable to legendary.
Beacons make sure event attendees stay on track and enable organizers to track which booth is drawing in an audience. (Hint: it’s probably the Aequilibrium booth, because we have sweet swag... like frisbees!).
TGIF (almost)! I’m looking forward to my weekend getaway and I've prepared an awesome itinerary for maximum fun. I rarely spend any time on the hotel property during a vacation, except for my morning continental breakfast so it's interesting to imagine what could be possible in the hotel industry to create a win-win scenario. I know that for the hotel and hospitality industry, people like me make it hard to get any time to really engage with the guests on-site. But I can imagine a day where I could go for a hike in the afternoon, and when I return, the beacons on the hotel property indicate that I’m back and I receive a direct message to inform me that the spa has an opening in the next hour. Now that's an offer I can’t resist!
Beacons can be integrated into hotels and hospitality operations on every level. From auto check-in, to notifying you where to eat, and specials, it's an invaluable connection point that enriches and engages.
Spoiler alert: welcome to
the future today.
It may sound like wishful thinking, but the reality is that leading companies in retail, health, transportation, hospitality, and so many others are using beacons to create richer, more personalized interactions with their brand, services, and products that today's educated consumers expect.
Say hello to Omni. Aequilibrium's omnichannel solution that is completely customizable to your needs.
If you're ready for beacons or want to know how Omni can increase engagement and provide invaluable insights into your customer interactions, let's talk. Even better, let's do something—come experience beacons for yourself and see Omni in action!