Bluetooth beacons vs WiFi vs NFC : Where is the IoT market headed in 2018?
Last Updated:  June 18, 2019
A comprehensive comparison of all proximity marketing solutions (PART – 2)
Digitization is rapidly bridging the gap between the physical and digital retail experience to enhance the customer in-store experience. Business owners and marketers have adopted technologies in interesting ways. Based on their experiences, we have curated a comprehensive comparison of all proximity marketing solutions. Last week, we discussed how Bluetooth beacons outshine QR code and RFID in 2018 (PART – 1).
This week we will be discussing how Bluetooth beacons are competing with WiFi and NFC technologies. We will also talk about companies who have succeeded or learnt from their deployments.
WiFi and BLE beacons
WiFi has traditionally not been a proximity marketing solution. But, with more and more companies, particularly retailers, offering WiFi in their stores, it’s no surprise that marketers are increasingly looking at WiFi hotspots as a channel through which location-based campaigns can be executed.
How does WiFi work for proximity marketing purposes?
Businesses set up several Wi-Fi hotspots and provide free internet access. In order to use it, a customer has to log in and provide their personal details. The business that hosts the Wi-Fi network can then send location-specific content to the consumer’s’ browser. Wi-Fi networks can also be used to measure foot traffic and general consumer movement.
Companies that moved away from WiFi proximity solution
The Orlando International Airport – This airport had over 1,000 WiFi access points. So it was an obvious choice to use the existing system to implement proximity campaigns. The plan was to leverage these WiFi points to find a traveller’s location and offer directions. However, a test in 2014 showed that a WiFi determination could be 30 to 50 feet off of an individual’s actual location. This happened because the WiFi strength varies by how many consumers are using it. The airport obviously then decided against proximity campaign using WiFi.
Why does WiFi as a proximity solution have limited success?
Even with the popularity WiFi has, it is not the most powerful way of implementing proximity campaigns. Here are the reasons –
WiFi requires users to consent to a connection each time they enter the business location.
Setting up a WiFi-based proximity campaign can be really expensive for a small and medium business owner.
3. WiFi technology does not rely only on the proximity of consumers and hence it is not quite effective when it comes to micro locating.
1. Kew Gardens – The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is one of the world’s oldest botanic gardens, and receives about 1.3 million visitors annually. They wanted to push information about the gardens which was relevant, timely and quality information. They deployed 21 beacons at Kew and 13 at their sister site, Wakehurst. They also had WiFi areas in 50 locations throughout the 300 acres of land. The offer to connect to free WiFi redirects the user to a page advertising “Discover Kew” mobile app for download. Once this beacon-enabled app was downloaded, visitors at Kew could interact with the beacons.
2. Orlando International Airport – Post the failure of just WiFi, the airport added an extra layer of beacons to their proximity solution. Users at the airport could then use their smartphones and locate their ticket counter, terminal or gate, check their flight information, find restaurants and shops, and locate their baggage upon arrival, accurately.
3. Google deployed 2,000+ Eddystone beacons in Indian Railway stations to promote free WiFi. To date, Beaconstac has helped deliver 5-10% click-through rates with millions of notifications delivered. (Google station now in India and Indonesia)
NFC vs iBeacons
NFC was originally developed and promoted as a highly secure technology to enable mobile payments and ticketing applications enabling consumers to make payments by merely tapping their cellular device against an NFC-enabled payment terminal to conduct a transaction. The technology seemed so promising that influential industry players predicted that it would extend its use cases and vanquish all other technologies.
Seeing the momentum of NFC adoption, it was expected that more than 550 million handsets would include the technology by 2016 and mobile commerce transactions would grow to $670 billion by 2013.
As of December 2017, 56% of consumers used their smartphone to pay for goods by either tapping or waving it.
Apple has started backing NFC
Most Android smartphones have native capability to support NFC. iPhone 6, 6 Plus support NFC only for payment while iPhones 7, 8 and X running on iOS 11 ans an NFC app can read NFC tags. The latest iPhones XS, XS Max and XR support NFC payment and can read NFC tags without an additional app.
Reasons for growing success of NFC –
Both Android smartphones and iPhones support NFC.
NFC tags are very cost-effective.
Apart from cardless payments, NFC tags are helping with proximity marketing campaigns as well.
We have earlier discussed the critical aspects of indoor location technologies, namely, iBeacon and NFC.
There isn’t a binary solution to which is the best proximity marketing solution for a business. Different technologies have different capabilities and adoption rate. Marketers and businesses have finally grasped that a combination of all proximity marketing technology is the way to go. Several instances of fusion of NFC and beacons have come to light that can help with millennial engagement. Another strategy to engage the millennial audience with is QR codes.
If you are planning to try out proximity marketing, 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!
Monika Adarsh is the Director of Inbound Marketing at Beaconstac where her primary job is to help users find answers to anything related to QR Codes. She works closely with customers to understand QR Code usage trends and build a framework for successful QR Code campaigns. She enjoys documenting her learnings about the QR Code market as posts and playbooks. She also anchors a podcast to uncover ways of using QR Codes in DTC/CPG brands. In her free time, she loves gardening and decorating spaces.