Location is mobile, and as Benedict Evans at Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, puts it, ‘Mobile is eating the world.’ This staggering consumer shift to mobile has made location the cookie of the real world, thus making it easier and more vital for businesses to take actionable decisions from, the data that is literally walking through its doors. According to a recent report by Markets and Markets, the Location-Based Services (LBS) market is expected to grow to $77.84 Billion by 2021.
It is no secret, that few industries have been disrupted by location-based services, the way the retail sector has. According to a survey by Boston Retail Partners, 53% of retailers plan to have the ability to identify customers via their smartphones, by the year 2020. These retailers would identify customers as soon as they walk inside the store.That would be a staggering 883% increase over the 6% of retailers who already identify customers this way.
While all of this clearly drives in the need for marketers to optimize their campaigns to make the most of the power of location data, many marketers still haven’t wrapped their minds around how to go about it. Not surprising, given the wide range of location-based marketing solutions that are available today.
According to Proxbook’s Q1 2017 Report, beacons at 91% are still the most popular proximity technology in the industry, followed by GPS/Geofencing at 58% and Wi-Fi at 35%. At the same time, a Forrester Research report predicted that next-generation Wi-Fi will reach 90% penetration over the next few years. In the midst of all of this, marketers are often confused on which location-based technology they should adopt to be future proof.
Wi-Fi vs RFID vs GPS vs Beacon
So, which among the following widely used location technologies – Wi-Fi, RFID, Beacons and GPS, will your business benefit from? This is one of the questions that keeps surfacing in most of our conversations with customers. Unfortunately, each of these technologies have their own limitations and businesses need to use the right combination of two or more based on their budget and what they are trying to achieve. We have already discussed about the basic differences between Wi-Fi and iBeacon (Bluetooth Low Energy), and how NFC and GPS fare against iBeacon, and how they work best when used together.
In this blog, we we will weigh the pros and cons of each of these four technologies to give you a brief and comprehensive overview and help you plot your course ahead.
||•It is standard feature across all smart devices
• Most retail stores already have the required infrastructure in place.
• It does not require a consumer to sign into the network or opt-in to location services to enable tracking, as long as it is an open network.
|•It can drain the battery on the consumer’s mobile device to a great extent.
• It offers limited flexibility in network alteration, thereby falling back on offering data as accurate as the one provided by RFID or Beacons.
• Utilization of Wi-Fi to communicate with a consumer demands a proper communication interface with an opt-in, like a mobile app, in place.
||•It doesn’t require users to be in direct line-of-sight.
• It offers a high degree of accuracy at the unique item or serial number level and the fixture/shelf level.
|•The cost and complexity of building RFID reader capabilities directly into mobile devices isn’t justified by the potential customer value.
||•Almost all smart devices come with in-built GPS functionality
• It offers a high degree of performance when used outdoors.
• It can easily be clubbed with other LBS tech such as Wi-Fi.
• It is highly cost effective.
|•Accuracy of location data provided could vary based on signal reception.
• Needs to be used in combination with other LBS technologies for indoor use due to line-of-sight issues.
• The constant search for satellite could result in a huge battery drain on mobile devices.
• Location accuracy is not as precise as other technologies (3.5m accuracy)
||•Beacons are majorly battery powered and stick easily to most surfaces. They are easily configurable as well.
• Any mobile device that has location and bluetooth enabled on it, can receive beacon-enabled push notifications.
•In the case of Eddystone beacons, brands can directly communicate with users via the Chrome browser app.
• It uses only 2-3% of the phone battery
• It supports highly accurate position tracking
|•The range of a beacon is dependent on its ‘broadcasting signal power'.
• In the case of iBeacon, users are required to download the corresponding retail app to interact with beacons.
So, which location-based service technology are you looking to leverage? Let us know in the comments below. Also, 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!