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Beacons 101

October 28th, 2015

When it comes to internet marketing, there’s always what I call a NBT. This is the “Next Big Thing.”  Some of these NBT’s really do change the industry. Others are nothing but hype.

One NBT you might have heard about is beacons. This is an early-stage technology for businesses. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of beacons – we’re got a complete guide below:

What are Beacons?

Beacons are physical devices placed in retail stores. They’re low-powered devices which emit a Bluetooth Low Energy single. Any customers with a smartphone capable of picking up Bluetooth will be able to receive notices from the store.

This usually happens inside the store or very near it. The messages sent will be location-based ads, coupons or other related, contextual information.

Are Beacons for You?

Probably not right this moment. But they might be sooner than you think. Here’s a brief overview of where beacons are right now, and where they might be in the future. Beacons can also be fairly intertwined with mobile wallets.

Plenty of existing internet marketing techniques are required to make beacons work well. Your current clients might not need beacons today. But by setting up their mobile marketing with beacons in mind, you can help ease any eventual transition.

Who Uses Beacons?

Right now, beacons are limited to large retail chains. Levi’s has deployed a billboard with a beacon. When people walk past, they can scan the billboard with their phone. Then they’ll be sent a coupon and directions to a nearby Levi store. Levi’s is also using beacons big-time in their San Francisco stadium.  

Lord & Taylor took beacons in a slightly different direction. They recently ran a SnipSnap campaign. When shoppers were within about 1,600 feet of the store, they’d get a mystery coupon. The customers then had to go into the store in order to claim the coupon. About 50% of those who got a coupon went into the store. About 20% of coupon receivers actually redeemed the coupon by making a purchase.

Beacons and SEO

Unless you’re clients are the size of Levi’s and Lord & Taylor, you probably don’t have an immediate need for beacons. That’s okay – I don’t either. But they sure sound cool.

Of course, this doesn’t mean cool technology dictates your business strategy. But there’s another aspect of beacons which applies to your SEO strategies right now: Next Moments.

Creating “Next Moments”

Your location-based marketing strategy can be broken down into two parts.

First, there’s the “near me” moment. This is when the potential customer is near a location where they might want to make a purchase. They might get a message from a beacon. Or they might search on their mobile device while out in the community and find that what they’re searching for is nearby.

“Next moments” are whatever you do on a marketing level to encourage that person to take action. This is often geared towards bringing that person into the nearby store. It can also encourage that person to claim a coupon or take a similar pro-brand action.

Some examples of “Next Moments” include:

  • Location-based mobile retargeting. The retailer uses GPS to determine when a customer is near the store, then sends him or her a message.
  • A coupon on the location landing page. If the consumer searches for a nearby business, the landing page of the business they find can have a coupon. Usually this offer will be transferred to a mobile wallet.
  • If the consumer downloads the coupon but doesn’t use it within a set period of time, the retailer can send a reminder.

Location-Based Marketing

Mobile retargeting which uses GPS is different from a beacon. A beacon has shorter range. While beacons are an emerging technology, so far they’re proving most useful within stores or in areas with heavy foot traffic. GPS technology is scalable across a larger area.