According to Streetfight, 2016 will be the year of the beacon. Not surprising, given that 85% of retailers are predicted to leverage iBeacon technology by the end of this year. Adding on to that, of late, there has been tremendous increase in the demand for contextually relevant experiences. 89% of consumers said that they are willing to provide retailers with personal information in exchange for targeted content, according to a recent study by RetailMeNot.
This number clearly highlights the fact that the much-vaunted ‘holy grail’ of marketing success lies in offering uber enhanced personalized experiences. Keeping this in mind, we recently conducted a webinar on ‘7 Ways Brands can use Beacon Tech to Make it Big in 2016’ to facilitate businesses on why they needn’t look any further than beacons to master this ‘holy grail’ of marketing.
In the webinar, Neha Mallik, Senior Marketer at Mobstac, took our viewers through some whopping stats on why beacons are the need of the hour for marketers all over. Contrary to how many media channels of recent, have failed to see any future or value in proximity marketing, these stats prove that, when used in the right manner, beacons have significantly outperformed traditional advertising methods.
Neha was joined by Perry, Marketing Associate at MobStac, who busted some of the most common myths around beacons along with insights on innovative ways in which brands can make the most of beacons in 2016. They also went on to discuss few of the best iBeacon campaigns of 2015 along with some insights on the dos and don’ts that should be followed while running an iBeacon campaign.
In the end they answered some very interesting questions that we received from our attendees during the course of the webinar. However, there were couple of other questions that we couldn’t get to because of time constraints. We have discussed answers to some of those questions here. Let’s get started:
1. What are the nuances around using a combination of GPS, geofencing and iBeacon technology for a particular use-case involving entry into a building?
Like we mentioned in the webinar, beacons work better when they are used in combination with other location-aware technologies like geofencing. If you are looking to leverage this combination in the your app then you might want to check out our Beaconstac SDK which comes with a built-in geofencing capability. Once you deploy a beacon at a retail store, you can go online on Beaconstac’s dashboard and link the beacon to the physical location of the store. You can then use this to offer other location-based features like finding the nearest store etc., to your customers via your app.
Using our Beaconstac Platform, you can easily define a geofence using a feature called Places. All you need to do is choose ‘Places’ from the navigation, click on ‘Add a new place’ and type in the attributes such as name, address (latitude and longitude values). Once that is done, you can easily define the range of a geofence (in metres).
Once you have set up a geofence for your retail store, you will receive callbacks when the fence is breached and a user enters or exits the region. You can then use these callbacks to show any kind of relevant notification. We at MobStac, strongly suggest utilizing this opportunity to gently nudge the users to keep their bluetooth turned on.
2. Can beacons track consumers? If not, how is it that they are used by businesses to track micro-location information via MAC addresses?
Beacons by themselves are not capable of sending notifications to a user’s phone or tracking users; apps do. Beacons simply send a unique identifier to an app (akin to a geographic landmark), to tell the app that it is entering the beacon range. This signal then makes the app aware that it’s time to perform an action. So, if the app is programmed to track a user, then once it enters the beacon range it will upload the user’s location information into the cloud.
To help you understand better, here’s how businesses actually use beacons to track micro-location information via MAC address. Now every beacon out there has a unique MAC address, which unlike the identifiers they transmit (Major and Minor number) cannot be altered. So once you deploy a beacon and map it to a physical location (say a women’s section in a store), when a user with the app enters the beacon range, the app will simply track the user’s location to be in the women’s section. Here it is important to understand that, contrary to popular opinion beacons cannot pinpoint the exact location of the user with great accuracy.
3. How secure are beacons? Can they be hacked?
Beacon security primarily involves ensuring that your app is encrypted and that the beacon management platform being used is stored in the cloud. That said, you also need to ensure that your physical infrastructure is secure as well. Particularly because, no matter which beacons you use, their Major numbers, Minor numbers, UUIDs, and MAC addresses can be discovered by anyone who has a BLE scanning device. That’s actually a feature and not a bug.
The problem arises due to the fact that these identifiers are by default, constant. This means that, anyone out there can grab those identifiers, add it to his or her own app, and use your beacons until you change the identifiers. Therefore it is very important that you frequently change (or randomize) the unique information broadcasted by your beacons. This way a hacker won’t be able to use the previously hacked values for a beacon because he or she wouldn’t know the new values unless he or she goes back to your store and scans them all once more. Thus the more often you shuffle, the more difficult it is for someone to hack your beacons. We at MobStac, strongly suggest that you change their values at least once a day, if you want to be sure that your beacons are used as you desire. We have already discussed a checklist on the various ways to assess beacon security in one of our earlier blogs.
4. Can an app distinguish between an original beacon and a beacon that has been hacked?
Yes, apps can be programmed to distinguish between an original beacon and one that has been hacked. This is solely based on the property that every beacon has a unique MAC address which unlike their identifiers (like Major number and Minor number) cannot be modified. Therefore although hackers can sniff out the MAC address along with the UUID, Major and Minor number of a beacon using BLE scanning device, they will not able to change the MAC address of the proxy beacon.
All you need to do is to program your app to look for the MAC address of the beacon along with its UUID, Major number and Minor number. The proxy beacon deployed by the hacker will broadcast a different MAC address, although the other identifier values might be the same. This way your app will be able to distinguish between an original beacon and a beacon that has been hacked.
5. I am a small time retailer. Will using beacons make sense for me? If so, how do I get started?
Yes, whether you are a small time retailer or a big major brand like Target or Macy’s ,beacons can help you enhance customer experience by allowing you to make better data-driven decisions. In order to get started you need to decide on the kind of use case you plan to implement and get your hands on some beacons. A good practice is to start with a small pilot, with a limited set of people. We usually suggest our clients to try out simple use cases in their beacon pilot. These primarily include:
(a) Welcome Message
(b)Discount Coupon/ Promotional Offers
(c) Feedback Form (eg: feedback on the in-store shopping experience etc.)
This way, if you plan to test for say one of the above mentioned use cases at a small store of say about 500 sq ft), you will need a minimum of 3 beacons in total. For bigger stores of say 2500 sq ft you will need around 12 to 15 beacons per store. If you are planning a beacon pilot, take a look at Beaconstac, that includes everything you need to get started.
6. How do you integrate iBeacon technology and location services into an existing app?
This can be done easily with our Beaconstac SDK. All you need to do is link a beacon to a physical location (by choosing a latitude and longitude) and our SDK will take care of the rest of the location-based actions.
7. How do Eddystone beacons fit into the beacon space?
One of the major reasons for the excitement around Eddystone is its promise on app-liberation via the ‘Eddystone-URL’ packet that it broadcasts. The Eddystone-URL packet makes it possible for businesses to push content to a prospective customer’s smartphone even when it doesn’t have the business’ app installed on it.
The point to note here is that, currently there is only the ‘Physical Web’ app in Android that is capable of receiving this packet. In case of iOS, other than the ‘Physical Web’ app the Chrome browser also supports Eddystone-URLs, once you enable the ‘Today’ notification in your iOS device. This new Chrome feature works within the Chrome Today widget on the Notification Center Today view. It’s not that the Chrome browser will automatically open and show the web page.
8. What are MobStac’s plans with Eddystone?
Late last year we started shipping Eddystone compliant beacons. As part of our move towards dual support for iBeacon and Eddystone beacons, we have made available the ‘BeaconStone’ Android app – a useful scanner app that can detect both iBeacon and Eddystone-compliant beacons, from any manufacturer.
Using the app, you can:
– Filter beacons based on whether they’re broadcasting Eddystone or iBeacon packets
– Sort beacons by signal strength, major and minor numbers
– View telemetry information, temperature, and URL for Eddystone beacons
9. Do beacons provide infinite range? How does this differ when it comes to beacons with Wi-Fi connectivity?
No, beacons do not provide infinite range. In fact the range of a beacon is dependent on the battery that powers them. Most beacons run on AA batteries, which in most cases, have a maximum range of 50-120 feet. At the same time, smartphones and tablets can be made to broadcast as beacons to reach further distances, with a maximum range of 150-200-ft. Beacons with Wi-Fi connectivity also fall into this category with a maximum range of about 164 ft.
In case you missed out on the webinar, you can listen to the entire webinar recording to gather innovative iBeacon campaigns tips from our experts.
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!