Beacons, as we all know have been the most talked about devices in recent years. Year 2014 saw a lots of ‘hits’ and ‘misses’ as far as beacon implementations are concerned. There has been a lot of hype about what these devices are capable of and how businesses can use them to enhance customer experience and engagement, and to generate more revenue.
What is surprising is that inspite of all the hype, there is very little ‘actionable information’ when it comes to deploying beacons in the real world. This is something we are trying to address through our Beacon Primer Webinar Series.
We recently discussed how some brands faced failure with their iBeacon trials, where they went wrong and what they could have done instead to make their beacon trial a success. In this post, we will go through some pointers that will help you get started with your iBeacon trial and move ahead in the right direction. Let’s get started:
Step 1: Purchase beacons
The first step to start with your beacon trial is to purchase beacons. Though there is a lot of information on ‘battery life’, ‘signal strength’, ‘advertising intervals’ of various beacons, their actual behaviour on the field varies due to a lot of factors such as interference, RSSI etc. It’s thus best to test with actual beacons and plan your strategy accordingly.
While choosing the right beacon hardware, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
1. Power Requirements – Can you go ahead with battery-powered beacons, or would you need USB-powered beacons? Should you consider electromagnetic-wave powered beacons or outdoor beacons? All this depends on where and how you need to place your beacons.
2. Interior Design and Aesthetics – This is something that often gets ignored, but as a business it’s best to keep it in mind from the very beginning. You would not want beacons around your store to look hideous! This is why using a beacon-agnostic proximity marketing platform like Beaconstac allows you to use whichever beacons you wish or use a combination of beacons from various manufacturers.
3. Compliance with Apple’s iBeacon specification – Though, all beacons available currently work with Apple’s CoreLocation APIs, to be sure that they will work with future versions of iOS, it’s best to have this as a criteria.
With the plethora of beacon hardware options available currently, it’s easy to get swayed by the features mentioned by various manufacturers. To deploy the right beacons for your business, however, you should make sure that you take the opinion of people who have/are actually using beacons on the field. Getting this first-hand information is extremely important and can be very beneficial. Also, reviews specific to particular use cases come in handy.
Step 2: Plan your App
We already know that beacons can do nothing by themselves, they can only work in tandem with an app. It is thus very important to plan your app in a way that it helps you meet your goals, whether it is to generate new business or to upsell to customers, or to simply enhance customer experience in your store/museum etc.
The first thing you need to decide is how you want to implement your iBeacon strategy – is it via your own app or a third party app?
There are pros and cons of each of these options. To sum it up – if you already have a branded app that is used and valued by your customers, then you can easily build upon it by adding location-based elements to the app. If you do not have your own app, you can use a 3rd party app.
To see the best results from beacons, however, it’s best to go ahead with your own app. This provides you an opportunity to truly personalize customer experiences, learn from the feedback received from customers and use it to enhance your brand value. Having your own beacon-enabled app gives you full ownership of how to market, sell to, and manage your customers.
Some of the features that you should incorporate in your beacon-enabled app are:
1. Strike a balance between user experience and privacy – Make sure you provide ‘value’ to your customers and are not annoying them with a splurge of random offers.
2. Ask for permission to access bluetooth and location services – These are the two bare essentials for your app to interact with beacons. Let your customers see what the app offers and what it can do, ask for access permissions when they are close to a beacon.
3. Account for interference when developing your app – Beacons are radio signal transmitters and radio signals can be absorbed by various media including water and air. These signals get affected by temperature, device power, polling intervals etc. Remember that your app needs to estimate a beacon’s distance from it. It thus needs to be designed in a way that it can make the closest approximation based on factors mentioned above.
In this post, we discussed the first two steps for getting started with your iBeacon trial. In Part 2 of this post, we will discuss the next steps – plan your beacon deployment and management, and measure and optimise your beacon campaigns.
If you are planning a beacon pilot, take a look at Beaconstac, that includes everything you need to get started. Using Beaconstac you can set up your own campaign, without a developer’s help!