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.
[Tweet “How to get started with your iBeacon trial”]
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 behavior 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 criterion.
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 helps you meet your goals, whether it is to generate new business or to upsell to customers, or to simply enhance the 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.
[Tweet “How to implement an iBeacon strategy: Via your app or 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 the factors mentioned above.
[Tweet “How to strike a balance between user experience and privacy, using beacons “]
Step 3: Plan your beacon deployment and management
Once you figure your app out, you are ready to start planning a beacon strategy. This involves two steps:
– Deploy and manage a fleet of beacons
After you have purchased beacons, you need to deploy and manage them. The most common questions are around:
i) Planning placement of your beacons – whether they can be left easily noticeable or be placed according to the aesthetics of your premises
ii) Deployment of beacons – whether you carry out beacon deployment with your own team or outsource it to an external agency – depends on the scale of deployment
iii) Managing and maintaining beacons – using a beacon management system to help you monitor last ping time, battery levels, firmware version upgrades, etc.
[Tweet “How you can plan your #beacon deployment and management”]
– Manage and measure your beacon-enabled campaigns
Once you have deployed beacons, it’s important to integrate beacon-enabled campaigns into your marketing, sales, and customer engagement strategies. Assess if you need a platform to manage these campaigns. For small-scale deployments, you may choose to code beacon-triggered campaign logic into your mobile app’s source code.
But as you scale up, for every new coupon or discount deal, it will not be possible to keep rolling out updates to your app on the app store. Choosing a software platform for managing notification rules and measuring the effectiveness of your campaign through analytics is therefore crucial.
[Tweet “How to manage and measure beacon-enabled campaigns”]
Step 4: Measure and Optimise Campaigns
Once you have completed the above steps, it’s time to test how things are working. This can be split into two steps:
– Run a pilot project
This will help you understand the issues that come up during the implementation of a beacon strategy, which parts of the strategy are easily scalable, and which parts are not. A good practice is to start with a small pilot with a limited set of people and at a few locations. The best way to do this is to choose a maximum of hundred volunteers who could experience how your app works, and how it interacts with beacons. Keeping it a ‘closed’ and ‘limited’ project will help you manage the project better. Also, try varying the ‘messaging intervals’ to understand what is the optimum time interval for sending consequent messages.
The most important aspect of running a pilot is to learn from it. Make sure you ask your volunteers for feedback – what they liked about their beacon experience and what they didn’t. Taking feedback into account will help you go ahead with your full-blown beacon strategy with confidence.
If you are planning a beacon pilot, take a look at Beaconstac, which includes everything you need to get started. Using Beaconstac you can set up your own campaign, without a developer’s help!
[Tweet “How to launch an #iBeacon trial”]
– Analyse results
After running the pilot, you need to analyze the results and make decisions for your future course of action.
Firstly, check the adoption rates. Did customers who tested the project bother to download the app? If yes, why? If not, why?
You need to ask your customers if they saw any “value add” to their experience or did they find the messages too ‘pushy’? Was your approach right? Were they happily surprised to receive an offer in a particular section, or did they feel it was delivered ‘too late’ or ‘too early’. Were you expecting them to do something they wouldn’t normally do – say buy chips at x% discount inside your museum?
Have a look at the analytics – did the footfall increase/decrease? You could perform A/B testing with some product and location combinations within your store. This will help you optimize product placements and layouts. Find out what kind of messages worked for you and what didn’t. What kind of messages saw the maximum click-through – you could use such messages more.
[Tweet “How you can use beacons to optimize product placement and store layout”]
Following the above steps will help you try out your beacon strategy easily and effectively. I am sure you will find these useful. Let us know in the comments below.