Big brother beacon is always watching …

Well, “big brother” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but beacons are watching, and you should be watching too. I mean, you’re closely monitoring your Google Analytics reports and analyzing that data in an effort to maximize your web presence, aren’t you? You can monitor traffic from your physical customers or visitors too. So why aren’t you trying to maximize your physical presence and track all that foot traffic just like you do online?

Enter the Smartphone

68% of American adults have a smartphone (Pew). I’m even willing to bet that a large percentage of your web traffic is coming from a mobile device.  Well, that very same device has the capability to let you track your physical customers and visitors in a similar fashion.  Sure, it’s a little creepy, but it’s so very, very cool to a data nerd like me. In a day and age where many people use their mobile device exclusively and are socially connected on that device, the doors are wide open to things that we just may not have thought possible before.

From simply tracking when someone walks through the door, down to tracking their every move within your physical space … it really goes about as far as you want it to.  Imagine being able to identify a particular visitor as a “repeat” customer, or walking up to a “first-time” shopper and greeting them by their first name. Now, imagine how happy they would be if they could find what they are looking for without having to track down an associate to help them.

It’s possible.

Beacon Example

The Dumb iBeacon

iBeacons, iBeacons, iBeacons. They have been around for a while now, and I’m sure you have heard of them. They aren’t anything particularly advanced or special … just a little hunk of hardware that broadcasts a unique Bluetooth signal that can range from 100 to 200 meters. I want to dispel the myth that they are complex or “not for the technology challenged.” Believe me, they don’t do anything else.  Think of them like little radio towers that just transmit one unique tone. But, of course, they do open up a lot of possibilities.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post, right?

A smartphone (equipped with the proper app) can detect that beacon, identify which one it is, and then interact with your visitor. Okay, okay, I was getting you excited about beacons until I pointed out the fact that you would need an app. The reason for that is because, as I pointed out, iBeacons are really just dumb pieces of hardware.  They can’t do anything else but consistently broadcast their unique signal. You do need something else to detect them and react to their presence. A smartphone equipped with the appropriate app acts like the radio receiver that can tell the difference between those unique tones and decide what to do when it hears them.  Might I suggest a “Customer Loyalty”, “Virtual Tour”, or an “Appointment Scheduling“ app for your visitors? You might not think that you need an app, but your competitors have them, and almost everyone I know is willing to install an app if it will give them a better experience.

The More the Merrier

One beacon is neat. You can now detect when the user has entered or exited your physical space, like the turnstile you curse at every time you visit Dorney Park (silently muttering to yourself, “There must be better way”).

Two beacons are pretty cool.  You are now able to determine if your visitor is in the reception area or in the conference room.

Three or more beacons is totally tubular. Now you can triangulate their position and know their exact location in your physical space (cough, cough … big brother).

Get to Know Them Without Getting to Know Them

Every app has some sort of login. I especially like the ones that integrate Facebook Connect. I, like a lot of other people, don’t even think twice about hitting that “Login with Facebook” button when prompted. I like it, it’s easy. And now that I hit the button … BAM … you now know who I am. Heck, you even know what I like. Now, your app can interact with me like a person. Your associates know the name of the person who just walked through the door. I have been identified and can now be tracked through the same channels that you use to track your website visitors (i.e. Google Analytics, Facebook App Analytics, etc.).

Keep up with the Jones’

Yeah, I couldn’t resist a chance to plug my last name in here somewhere.  But, really, you’ve got to keep up with the competition. Retailers are using Beacon technology to track their customers and target specific ads and content based on their location in the store.  The Tourism industry is using beacon technology to provide information about landmarks and create a “self-guided” tour experience. And – by far my favorite example of Beacon technology that provides mutual benefits – stadiums and arenas are beginning to implement Beacons to help fans find their seats.

Have I sparked your interest?

I really hope so.

I could brainstorm ideas to implement beacons all day long. Hopefully, I’ve shown you that beacons really aren’t all that complex, and maybe even inspired you to start brainstorming how to leverage this technology for your brand.

Want to brainstorm ways to use beacons with Liquid? Let’s get together.

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Ray Jones

About Ray Jones

Ray is a Senior Applications Developer at Liquid. He is responsible for creating and maintaining websites & mobile applications, as well as fueling the Mac vs. PC rivalry in the office. When he is not at Liquid, Ray enjoys spending time with his family and teaching at LCCC.

Published Sep 13, 2016