Op-Ed: Beacons and Beyond – Where to from Here?

Chaos Ahead Traffic SignThe following is an exclusive guest contributed post from Nimmity Zappert, Head of Sales and Partnerships at Localz.

There has been a lot of hype around beacon technology over the past couple of years. Why all the hype?

Beacons changed the game around location technology, putting the advantage back in the hands of retailers with brick and mortar stores. Location technology has been around for a while, using GPS, cellular and wireless. But there were challenges with providing a precise location in proximity to an object, especially indoors. With the advent of Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) and Apple’s iBeacon protocol, location technology evolved so that it is now possible to know where someone is with a precision of 2-inches (5cm) to more than 76 yards (70m), in relation to a beacon. And that beacon can be indoors; meaning that for the first time, retailers have the ability to know the precise location of a customer in their stores.

Beacons came along at a time when retailers were looking for a comeback story. Not only were online retailers taking away their business, customers were using brick and mortar stores as a showroom to view stock, and then buying online from a competitor. Beacons, coupled with advances in real-time technology, mean that retailers can now use their physical location as an advantage over online only retailers.

By connecting customers’ real-time, in-store locations with existing data about their preferences and buying behaviors, retailers can use real-time decisioning to communicate with shoppers on their phones in real-time, while they are in store. This individualized dialog can even include offers for items the customer recently browsed online, or the retailer can create an “endless aisle” that gives shoppers access to additional product options available online for immediate purchase via the phone app. Beacons can increase engagement by seamlessly connecting customers’ online and in-store experiences.

With this evolution, location is now a key part of the toolkit for all marketers and is one of the most important aspects of a real-time conversation. As businesses compete to capture and hold their audience’s attention in a very busy space, location information is key to ensuring that real-time communication is contextually relevant to where customers are and what they are doing at that moment.

So are beacons the silver bullet of location technology?

Beacons are just the latest in what is an ever-evolving landscape of location technology. We are already seeing beginnings of the next generation, such as Eddystone, and new versions of LTE will allow for precision of several yards or meters without any customer infrastructure. The list goes on and continues to evolve.

Location technology is moving quickly, and it’s a challenge for retailers to keep up. What businesses need to do is focus on leveraging the power of location technology with their historical and real-time customer interaction data so they can deliver great customer experiences that truly provide value.

So, there is a world of possibilities with location technology. What will be next? Something exciting I’m sure.