Launching your First Beacon Project? 8 Things you Need to Know
Last Updated:  February 21, 2019
Businesses are quickly adapting to the technological advances so as to remain ahead of their competitors. They are investing in location-based technologies, such as iBeacon, Wi-Fi, Li-Fi, and so on, as it gives them an edge by creating multiple points-of-sale and engagement abilities at a personalised level with their customer base. Beacons are doing specifically well, as suggested by ABI Research in a report proclaiming that the number of beacons is on track to break the 400 million shipments mark by the year 2021. In fact, the Bluetooth Low Energy beacons market is expected to more than double this year.
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Among all the reports of the growing BLE beacon market, it is very prominent that iBeacon technology is gaining a lot of interest. Now businesses are all the more curious about how they can leverage it for specific use cases since the technology is maturing well, from simply being an on-the-spot ad-triggering system to devices that facilitate the collection of consumer location data with this analysis revealing behavioural insights.
With the increasing traction, businesses are hurriedly getting onto the beacon bandwagon without being very clear about the process of deploying beacons. Keeping this in mind, we have come up with a list of eight things businesses need to keep in mind before launching their first beacon project.
1. Create a deployment plan
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Figuring out a deployment plan for your beacon program can be one of the trickiest parts of setting up a beacon campaign, so make sure you have a well-prepared plan. You need to address important questions like ‘What are the logistical considerations to be taken into account for a large-scale deployment?’ and ‘How can you set up beacons and maintain them in a production environment?’. Here are some points for you to consider:
– Assess the kind of beacon deployment you need: Point-based or Grid-based – Have a floor plan and select points of interest – Gauge the number of beacons that you would need to buy – Test beacon ranges at the site of deployment – Program and map your beacons before deploying them on site – If you are using an app, test each beacon as you go to see how it behaves with your app
2. Assess the total cost of ownership
Coming up with a budget for your beacon deployment is essential. It must include:
– Deployment costs: Hardware , Software/Platform usage, and Installation (which you may not incur if you already have Facility Management in place) – Cost of replacing beacons and upkeep – Labor and Support costs
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Deployment costs depend on the kind of beacons you would want to use and the total number of beacons. You can take several measures to bring down the total cost. For instance, you can consider going for beacon devices that are AC powered or have a longer battery life so as to drive down that total cost of ownership. To avoid any miscalculations, you can test the battery life of beacons and expected maintenance over time by putting them in the field for a period of time. If you want to have a beacon deployment that is cost-effective, find a beacon that is easy to configure in the field, low-maintenance, and inexpensive to replace if it gets lost or stolen. An important factor, in accompaniment, is also the investment that goes into building your own app if you are using iBeacon. You will not need an app in case you are opting for Eddystone beacon protocol.
3. Complete beacon placement and tuning
Beacon placement and tuning is critical to the success of your beacon campaign. Once you have a fair amount of idea about the space, you would know the range to be used for each beacon and the number of beacons to be deployed. Few of the factors to be considered at this stage include:
– Take note of the material that the walls at the deployment space are made of. This is important, given that any partitions or walls made of concrete or metal are nearly opaque to Bluetooth. Materials that block or reduce signal strength can impact how the beacon performs.
– Be aware of objects such as sculptures, fountains etc., that lie in the range of beacons, as they might block beacon signals, resulting in a bad proximity experience. This information is useful while deciding on the number of beacons to be deployed and adjusting their settings.
– Have a good idea of how crowded the deployment space could get, as even huge crowds can end up blocking beacon signals from reaching the users’ smartphones.
– Look out for the amount of space between a potential receiver and a beacon – in case of huge vaulted ceilings and giant open spaces, like a warehouse, you may run into problems for the lack of a place to attach a beacon. On the flip side, cramped aisles and low-hanging fluorescent lights can make a retail shop floor extremely tricky to get good signal reception.
– Check the height of the roof and the openness at the deployment space. In order to ensure accurate granularity in triggering beacons, we recommend you mount your beacons at least 3 meters above the ground or on the ceiling.
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4. Take note of the performance specifications
A small step like changing the advertising interval can have a huge impact on how beacons perform. Reducing the advertising interval can decrease the battery life of a beacon and vice-a-versa. This has further performance and accuracy related consequences when beacons broadcast less often than they are supposed to. So before you change the specifications of a beacon, keep the impact in mind and how it will play along in the entire beacon deployment plan.
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5. Plan beacon security and privacy
To ensure physical security of beacons, they must be secured with proper adhesive so that they don’t fall off. You can also make sure that they are placed out of reach to prevent them from being stolen.
Updating beacon firmware is also a critical step in securing beacons. You must also watch out for spoofing and piggybacking—Spoofing is the security breach when someone sets up a beacon that is broadcasting the same information as your beacons and causes a disturbance, whereas piggybacking is a practice when another mobile app uses the public signals of your beacons for their own purposes. Beacon manufacturers have already started rolling out features that prevent spoofing and others piggybacking off your beacons. In addition, you must assess the security of beacons by understanding the most common myths around beacons security and privacy that often create an obscure viewpoint for business heads.
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6. Choose appropriate success metrics You need to choose proper success metrics for your beacon campaign that aligns best with your business. Instead of piling on customer loyalty, wayfinding, and more, pick a single metric to begin. Knowing how to measure this success is still an inexact science. Nonetheless, you can zero in on one of these four success metrics to assess your beacon campaigns:
– App engagement metrics – Store footfall and sales metrics – Customer experience metrics – Customer engagement metrics
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Undoubtedly, focusing on the various metrics mentioned can give businesses an edge and help them in reviewing their beacon campaign strategy.
7. Make the most of the data collected
After choosing proper success metrics, you can leverage various other metrics that a beacon deployment offers you. Beacons generate scores of new data points that supplement and enhance existing data sets. For instance, information about in-store traffic, browsing, and purchasing patterns, add meaningful context when aggregated with online and in-app browsing patterns, offering additional insight. You can leverage beacons to generate an array of data points such as: – Frequency of visits – Recency of purchase or conversion – Assessing Store Layout – Effectiveness of targeted services – Customer Feedback – Labor/Inventory efficiency – Effectiveness of promotion strategies – In-store traffic – In-store loyalty program interaction
8. Assess the adaptability of your beacon campaign
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Businesses need to understand that though beacons may just be small transmitters, there function is not restricted for mere advertisements and promotional offers. Beacons have steadily grown beyond being a tool for sending offers, by working alongside apps and accomplishing features like in-app navigation, gathering analytics, and much more. Once the deployment is complete, the use of beacons does not remain limited to what they are being deployed for initially, as is evident from the metrics stated in the previous point. For instance, beacons deployed for lock screen messages can be used further for in-app navigation, mobile payment, and more.
After the placement of beacons in the environment, businesses can build additional solutions to make their customers’ experience smoother. Strategic placement of beacons can help in resolving customer experience issues and at the same time, complete your business goals. For instance, if your customer base demands an interactive wayfinding solution using beacons in a retail space, you can abandon the idea of triangulated navigation in favor of carefully chosen beacon-enabled landmarks and points of interest. So, the end goal did not change, but it was only implemented in a different way.
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Understanding the eight points mentioned in the post will definitely keep you ahead in the game. They will assist you in planning and reviewing your beacon campaign strategy for a successful beacon deployment.
Are there other critical points that you think one must keep in mind before embarking on the beacon journey? Let us know in the comments below.
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!