According to a recent report titled ‘BLE Tags: The Location of Things (LOT)’ from ABI Research, the total BLE Beacon shipments will comfortably exceed 400 million units in 2020. Adding on to that, the use of beacons at retail is predicted to be explosive over the next year or so, as merchants complete beacon trials. This comes as no surprise, given that a number of big names including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Kohl’s and Unilever have been in news for testing and rolling out beacon programs.

Yet, inspite of all the hype around beacons, many marketers even today are not quite sure about how to put beacons to use. And what makes things worse is that there is little or no actionable information on setting up and planning a beacon pilot roadmap or mistakes to watch out for.

In this blog we will discuss in detail a few best practices on how retailers can leverage beacons for their proximity marketing campaigns.

1. Leverage Passbook rather than relying on a third party app

One of the most popular ways of leveraging beacons is via mobile apps. Most brands that don’t already have an app in place usually opt for a third party app. The main advantage here is that it allows brands to provide their service through an app that already exists on their customers’ smartphones.

Keeping this in mind, Energizer recently leveraged beacons to boost awareness and generate purchase intent lift during the launch of their eco-friendly EcoAdvanced recycled batteries. The campaign pushed content to customers once they were within the range of beacons, via a third party app (provided they had the apps installed on their devices). And once they opened the app, they were offered a discount coupon which was accessible when they viewed a full-screen Energizer ad.

Top 4 Proximity Marketing Best Practices -Energizer

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However, because Apple’s developer guidelines forbid serving third-party marketing messages within push notifications, Energizer wasn’t able to target consumers most likely to buy their batteries.

One of the best fixes to such issues would be to leverage Apple’s new Wallet app in iOS 9 to push dynamic, geo-targeted offers directly to users who have added that particular brand to their Passbook. This is one of the main reasons why Angel Grant, digital lead of the Energizer account at MEC, said that they plan to tie up Passbook along with beacons in their next beacon campaign.

The primary advantage here is that, it does not require customers to download a third-party app. They can just add a store-specific pass or loyalty card to their Passbook and once in-store brands can detect a user’s location using beacons to trigger various messages and offers through their ‘Passbook’. This will save brands the hassle of creating their own app.

2. Moderate the number of push notifications sent to a customer per store trip

Though beacons offer retailers a unique opportunity to leverage proximity data for deeper, actionable customer insights, currently too many marketers are focused on using the technology as another promotional engine. Not only does this practice threaten to undermine the potential of beacons, it might also overwhelm customers and nudge them to turn off the notifications.

In fact, according to an inMarket study, while a single beacon-related push notification in-store can increase engagement by around 45%, generating more than one beacon push per location can lead to a more than 300% drop in app usage. That said, push does have its place. According to a survey released by circular shopping app Retale on Tuesday, 84% of millennials act on push notifications that come via location-based apps, with 61% preferring information related to coupons, discounts and deals that they can use immediately at the moment.

Top 4 Proximity Marketing Best Practices - Target

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Keeping this in mind, Target recently limited the number of push notifications that a customer would receive per shopping trip to two in their effort to assure the customers that they would not be overwhelmed with notifications. This initiative was a part of their iBeacon campaign that leveraged beacons to make hyperlocal content accessible to shoppers via a newsfeed-like stream called the Target Run page.

3. Allow customers to ask for beaconing rather than pushing messages

Contrary to how beacons are popularly installed far from the shoppers’ view at the store entrance or on the ceiling of a particular section, brands, of recent, have started installing beacons more prominently at the consumer facing racks. For example, GameStop recently tested out this new kind of UX, where the consumer essentially asks to be beaconed, at few of its stores across New York.

Top 4 Proximity Marketing Best Practices - GameStop

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The idea behind this is that, instead of pushing messages to game shoppers based on their location in-store, GameStop wanted its shoppers to bring their phone near the beacon, if they want additional product information. On bringing their mobile device near the beacon on the rack, the proximity-detection device would trigger the relevant messaging in the GameStop app.

4. Use beacons to gather customer information and allow for precise retargeting

One of the primary challenges faced by most retailers is their ability to bridge offline and online data at scale, thus enabling online retargeting based on in-store behavior data. However, of recent, with the advent of proximity technologies such as beacons, retailers are now able to retarget their own customers online based on accurate offline behavior.Top 4 Proximity Marketing Best Practices - Coca-Cola

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For example Coca-Cola recently ran an iBeacon campaign at CAPA cinemas, Norway to retarget customers more precisely. As a part of this campaign, movie-goers received a beacon-enabled notification for a free Coke that could be redeemed at the counter if they had Norwegian publisher VG’s app on their phone as they walked through the CAPA hallway. Beacons were used to gain data, which was then stored anonymously on media platform Unacast. This data was then used to retarget those who had redeemed the offer with a free cinema ticket that could be redeemed at the movie theater, a week later when any of them opened the VG news app on their phones.

Are there any other proximity marketing best practices that we missed out on? Let us know in the comments below.

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