Beacons – The marketers’ arsenal

Your portable lighthouse!

A beacon is defined by the dictionary as a light that is set up on a high position (a hill or a tower) to send a signal as a sign of warning or celebration. Used primarily during times of war to alert sailors at sea or the troops on land, to warn them about an invasion or even returning troops. Even though the concept remains the same for the most part, a beacon’s sole purpose is to communicate a message to the crowd.

Out of all the definitions scanned for across the internet, the best way to define the use of a beacon is to compare it to a lighthouse. The beacon is, in fact, a Bluetooth radio transmitter that broadcasts signals, mostly in a combination of numbers and letters at an interval of around 1/10th of a second. A bluetooth-enabled smartphone can see a beacon once it is in range, much like a sailor at sea would a lighthouse.

The first beacon developed was the iBeacon which was done by Apple in the year 2013. Ever since, IBM and Apple have been working collectively to work on apps with analytics. It was developed by Apple for the sole purpose of alerting Apple devices through the apps or a website to alert them when they leave or approach a particular location.

How does it work?

It’s pretty simple actually, any smartphone with it’s bluetooth turned on and in the vicinity of these beacons is bound to catch a notification. It requires the user’s bluetooth and location to be turned on. From sending forms, to special offers or just a greeting, it’s all possible through beacons. Based on the beacon that you purchase, it may or may not come with the analytics that can help you assess the scenario. Think of it as a mailer campaign that is more engaging and highly customizable.

So how has it helped businesses?

The retail industry has been the biggest user of beacon tech since its inception. As the beacon enables you to customize the message that you send out to customers in various locations of a store, you can think of it as customer nurturing- a way of prompting your potential customer to make a purchase by slipping in an offer or a discount. Of course, all this is based on their buying preferences and patterns.

Sports Venues have used beacons all around the stadium to guide visitors to their respective seats and Airports have started using it to guide travellers to their respective gates. The possibilities are endless and beacon technology has become a useful tool that has spread like wildfire.

“Its utility is only limited to how creatively it can be applied in business.”

And get creative, we did.

At Hotelogix, we have been quite active at hospitality events around the world. With annual participations at ITB Berlin and Asia as well as WTM London, the question that arose was how and what we could do differently to make the most of the event. So, we dug deeper to try and find something fresh. Something that wouldn’t hinder our already existing plans, but would help us take it up a notch.

In the midst of a brainstorming session leading up to ITB Berlin, as we were throwing ideas at the board, the problem was clear! We needed to get the crowd to us, we needed to stand out! For an event that sees a daily footfall of over 35,000 visitors, 10,000 exhibitors and an area spanning across 160,000 square meters, the question was what we would do to fix that.

Count on a few influencers to speak at the event? Done!
Coordinate with exhibitors that have the same target market? Done!
Emails, social media campaigns and the works.
But, there was still nothing we were attempting, that was out of the box.

Then it hit us like an epiphany! How do you stand out in a sea of people solely driven by the first thing that catches their eyes?

Proximity marketing!

A few hours of research, a few more cups of coffee and a list of possible sellers later, we found a company that would foolproof our first attempt at proximity marketing. Beaconstac was the company we chose to work with. They are one of the few companies that support their beacons with an easy-to use dashboard that helps customize the messages and track the analytics.

The Plan:

We picked up 3 beacons with a range of around 100mts.To be more specific, the “Pocket Beacon”. Still no match for the 160,000 square meters that we had to cover. So, we did the obvious:

Beacon 1: Placed at one of the entrances, it was assigned to greet customers as they walked into the event. A message that gave them a brief about Hotelogix and the location of our stall.

Beacon 2: This one was placed at our stall, in an attempt to ensure that the visitors wouldn’t walk by without saying ‘hello’. There are only so many visitors that the team could attend to at any given point in time. The beacons made sure that we didn’t miss any opportunity in connecting with visitors in the vicinity.

Beacon 3: The third one was “the human beacon”! Strapped to one of our colleagues who was all over the venue, transmitting information as he went about his day networking at the event. Cost-effective and covering more than a 100mt radius, this was definitely a win-win.

The Outcome:

The 4 days at ITB Berlin were a nail-biting period for the marketing team. Having been the first time we were trying out beacons, we did not know what to expect. We had no clue about whether it was going to work, what if people did not have their Bluetooth turned on and would it be visible to those who had it turned on.

To our surprise each of the beacons were able to send out a 1000 notifications, per day. A few tweaks in the content, all done remotely from India and the beacons were updated just like that.

We were unable to estimate the number of visitors that came to our stall through these beacons. But, we can say that there were definitely a lot more visitors at the stall than we expected. And if nothing at all, it turned out to be a great branding activity for us. Afterall, 3000 notifications per day is no joke!

The Conclusion:

To tell you the truth, proximity marketing hasn’t found it’s home everywhere. It is a form of marketing that will only work in a market that is technologically driven. Countries like India and other developing nations may not have the same responsiveness as say, the United States of America and the other European nations. But the sheer brilliance is that, with a little bit of ingenuity, these beacons can work wonders in almost any Industry. A simple way to isolate your potential customers from the crowd and guide them in your direction.

We’ve intensively studied about it’s application in the hospitality industry and specifically a use case for hotels. If you liked our approach to introducing you to beacons, do let us know in the comments below and we would love to churn out more exciting content.

Source:
kontak – https://kontakt.io/beacon-basics/what-is-a-beacon/
beaconstac – https://www.beaconstac.com/

Your portable lighthouse!

Nikhil John

Nikhil is a marketing evangelist at Hotelogix with an interest in curating engaging content for the right audiences. He is an automotive enthusiast and a music buff with a dream of, one day, having these three interests make him his bread and butter.