Back to the future | BLE Beacons

Pubblicato il: 26 June 2020

Beacon BLE


Today we want to talk about Beacons, those devices based on Bluetooth technology that have been much talked about since their introduction on the market, then again in 2013 with Apple thanks to iBeacon, and which have found great interest in the industrial sector rather than in the retail sector . Low implementation costs are among the main features of this technology.

The first texts have recorded very encouraging data. In fact, buyers who had received location-based beacon messages were 16.5 times more likely to interact with an advertised product than those who had not received a beacon message, according to a 2014 research by digital advertising leader InMarket.

But let’s take a step back!



What is the history of the Beacon?

Here is our Beacon’s Time Line of uses in the retail market:


Beacon's Time Line


Now that we have refreshed our memory let’s start with order:


What is Beacon Technology?

A Beacon is a bit like a beacon: it repeatedly transmits a single signal that other devices can see. Instead of emitting visible light, however, it transmits a radio signal on the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) protocol consisting of a combination of letters and numbers transmitted on a regular interval of about 1/10 of a second. A Bluetooth-enabled device such as a smartphone can “see” a beacon when it is within reach, just like sailors looking for a beacon to find out where they are.

How do beacons work?



The Beacon device itself is incredibly simple . Each device contains a CPU , radio and batteries and works by repeatedly transmitting an identifier . This identifier is collected by our devices, usually cell phones, and marks an important place in your environment.

The identifier is a unique ID number that the smartphone recognizes as unique for the beacon. Once connected, the beacon will perform any function it has been programmed to perform.

We will see in more detail below some of the many functions that the beacon can perform!


Where are we today?

Industrial sector:

Companies that deal with production and logistics increasingly need to control their production cycles and soon realized the intrinsic potential of beacon technology. In fact, through these bluetooth devices it is possible to associate automatically and in real time information relating to progress, operator activities, materials and all other variables that contribute to the production process. The adoption of these technologies allows to minimize the department’s operations with a consequent increase in production efficiency, speeding up data acquisition operations, reducing time and errors, optimizing energy consumption and the use of space. In summary:a modest investment allows to minimize various cost items .


Retail sector:

Today, as more and more consumers are using mobile apps , the beacon is becoming popular with marketing experts and more …

As I anticipated, the Beacons have gained rapid popularity, but the hype for technology has quickly waned for a few reasons:

  • Many retail stores had difficulty implementing the technology, which led to a low return on investment.
  • Many marketers did not know how to properly use data generated by beacon technology or did not understand how the data could benefit from their business.
  • Customers preferred alternative sources of information (eg product displays, signage, email marketing) that did not require monitoring of their mobile devices for push notifications.

Bloomberg Businessweek at the time was particularly tough, stating that the “headlight” technology was practically left to die for failing to deliver on its promise to revolutionize the retail sector.

However, that was then, and this is today. Today’s mobile users rely heavily on apps and people are increasingly focusing on the notifications delivered via their phones, tablets and watches.

Moreover, beacon technology has also started to come in handy outside the retail arena. The Beacon is in fact gaining popularity, being used, from bank branches and sports arenas to resorts to airports and fast-food restaurants.

The advantages of using Beacon technology


Proximity data received by beacon technology can provide physical retailers and other organizations with some of the same physical customizations and targeting benefits found by online retailers.

For example, beacons can help marketers get detailed customer information, such as how long customers spend on average in a store and which sections of products are visited. The positional precision signals they can give you are under discussion, but it’s clear that this Bluetooth technology is an improvement over other proximity technologies like GPS and WiFi. With this greater precision, you can collect more reliable information on how and where your customers move to your shop.

The Beacon can give companies the attention they want to marketing or information messages, but not only. Geo-targeted messages sent by beacons can significantly increase the opening rate of mobile offers. Data  show that people open standard push notifications about 14% of the time, but open messages sent by a beacon more than 50% of the time because those messages appear more relevant.

Beacon technology is inexpensive to adopt for most companies. A set of 3-4 iBeacon transmitters connected to a mobile app and the content management system can be enough for a normal shop. The technology is also relatively easy to install and implement, making it a low risk and worthwhile venture.

Finally, beacon marketing can increase interest in using a corporate mobile app. Consumers often download apps and forget that they exist, but notifications triggered by beacons can serve as reminders. Some retailers saw up to 400% increase in mobile app engagement after beacons were implemented.

By taking advantage of beacon technology, apps can become even more useful and engaging tools for buyers.


Disadvantages of using Beacon technology


Knowing your consumers through advanced mobile technology can offer key ideas on the evolution of the Beacon. These efforts, however, can sometimes lead to problems.

An Accenture Technology Labs report looked at how consumer reactions change as the marketing push gets more personalized .

The sales funnel typically begins with mass emails, followed by demographic announcements on social media, followed by specific suggestions based on the previous view or purchase history.

As the dealer gets more information, the tone becomes more specific.

The point where it goes from “crazy” to “disturbing”, according to Accenture, is when an employee greets you with the college nickname and suggests that you may be running out of intimate personal care products.

Although consumers are not necessarily discouraged by companies that use personalized data. Over 70% of consumers say they are willing to allow in-store monitoring and send notifications if retailers offer the right incentive .

A push notification contact might be helpful, but eight are probably too many. If you communicate excessively through beacon marketing, you risk that the app will be deleted or those push notifications will be disabled.

Finally, as consumers get used to receiving beacon-triggered notifications and exploring a location with the help of beacons, the company should periodically change any campaign messages to keep content up to date and encourage consumers to come back more frequently .


[Opportunities] Some examples of the use of Beacon technology


Beacon marketing has offered companies unique and interesting ways to interact with customers, including driving directions , customer service and promotions .

For example, at Levi’s Stadium , home of the San Francisco 49ers, the installation of 1,000 lighthouses made it easier for ticket holders to find their seats and receive food and drinks.

Within the first seven months of adopting beacon marketing, the stadium App was downloaded 183,000 times , which led to a 30% adoption rate and a $ 1.25 million increase in concession revenue .

Consumers can receive a personalized user experience through Beacons.

Another example, Starbucks uses Beacon technology with its mobile app for payments, rewards and even to tell customers what music is playing in the store. The company then uses the data provided via Beacon for various purposes.

Retail brands, which were among the first to adopt Beacon technology, continued to install Beacons in their physical locations. The pharmacy chain Rite Aidhas distributed beacons in over 4,500 stores in the United States .

To this end, the Beacon is ready to make the leap from a “kitsch” to an indispensable proximity marketing technology.

According to the global accounting firm PwC , it is indeed the right time for the global strategy of involving consumers in the use of beacons. Statistics show that consumers are more than willing to use mobile devices to integrate technology with their shopping experiences.

Finally, the main research companies in the sector say that most of the resellers who have tried the beacons are satisfied . Over 70% said they were able to track and understand how consumers moved through the store and selected items for purchase because of the beacons.


Threats of using Beacon technology


As we have seen, consumers who are well motivated appreciate companies that use personalized data . The difficult part for companies that adopt the Beacon is to anticipate and understand the advantage for the buyer : if a shop will use a customer’s personal data and stop its shopping trip, it must be for good reason:

Beacons help improve the user experience by adding an additional layer of personalized interaction during the shopping experience. Targeted ads and offers from favorite brands create trust, security and familiarity. With consumers now having so much choice in the online and offline retail market, building trust in their brand has never been more important. In a study conducted by PWC this year, in fact, 35% of consumers ranked “brand trust” among the top three reasons for retail shopping.

Although according to research conducted by the Kenan-Flagler Business School of the University of North Carolina , younger consumers are still more sensitive to this type of intrusion because they understand the value of their attention and especially of their data.

Consumers no longer want to be bombarded with messages or made too aware of what a company knows.

The use of beacons in Italy?



Bolzano first province with a public network


In Italy, Bolzano can boast a role as a track opener for the adoption of Beacon technology: the South Tyrolean Province, in fact, was the first to have a 100% public Beacon network spread throughout the territory , i.e. totally open and free .

The network was created by positioning 3,500 beacons in the territory of 74 municipalities in South Tyrol and was born from a collaboration between the NOI Techpark technology park and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano.

A peculiarity of the public network is that it can be used by any company or startup that has the will to develop ad hoc projects that can range from gamification to monitoring the territory.

Among the current applications, the city of Merano in collaboration with IDM has integrated a game into the Südtirol Mobile Guide to involve visitors during the period of the local Christmas market, while the Bolzano Fair will use bluetooth devices to provide information to visitors. (In Italy, another interesting example of innovative use of technology to improve the tourist experience is represented by the Trentino VR project , based on virtual reality).

The free development platform was also used for the development of the Blueslemon project, born from a collaboration between two companies, FOS Group and MAVTech, and a research center, EURAC, which integrates the use of bluetooth and drones for landslide monitoring. .


Final thoughts on Beacon technology

It is difficult to say how popular Beacon technology will become; the technology is still relatively young outside of retail and, as we often do for technologies, the adoption curve has not been “steep” as expected.

However, with Google’s recent plans to make its platform open and easier for developers to program, we can expect more companies to adopt the technology. A huge advantage of beacons is that they are relatively cheap compared to other technologies, so large and small businesses can adopt the technology with low risk.

Beacons are simple tools whose main features are Bluetooth signal strength and battery life. But many do not remember that beacons also work without a data network or GPS and therefore can be decisive for the most varied applications. Their limit? The imagination to develop the right application to combine. Because? Because we are going to provide Beacon!

Last but not least, this year Global Market Insights has predicted that the Beacon technology market will exceed $ 25 billion by 2024 . What is certain is that technology has a lot of potentials and will contribute to the evolution of the industrial and advertising sectors in the coming years.


Stay tuned