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US brands overcoming challenges to start rolling out beacons

NEW YORK – Beacon executives at the ad:tech New York conference claimed that although the United States has been slower to roll out beacon technology compared to some countries, more brands and retailers will begin introducing the technology, with nearly five million beacons expected to be deployed over the next few years.

Beacon employment necessitates lots of capital, due to the purchase of the actual beacon and the accompanying mobile application it requires, but the executives believe that it will ultimately help bridge the gap between the digital and physical world and serve as a significant way of driving consumer traffic and revenue.

“Mobile is the key to making these beacon technologies work,” said Kevin Hunter, COO, Gimbal, San Diego, CA. “It’s a digital sixth sense for us. Technologies like this really help us engage with the physical world around us more passively.”

Maturing market
With technology talk shifting more to beacons, especially with the holiday shopping season around the corner, more companies are looking to integrate it into their marketing systems to serve consumers with push notifications, offers and alerts that will ultimately drive more commerce.

Beacons’ location and proximity offer key insights to consumers, which then allow the brand to create a more relevant, contextual experience. However, brands in the United States have seen challenges in overcoming consumer privacy concerns, which is a key issue for developers.

The executives predicted that eventually, American consumers will have five or six LTE devices around them at all times, but all will be synced to one number.

Beacons also require a companion mobile application, and developing appropriate calls to action for customers to download those apps is another challenge for brands to tackle. A call to action that saw high levels of success was in a Brazilian Nivea campaign for sunscreen, which had beacons inserted into a strip on a magazine advertisement that could be folded to make a bracelet.

The bracelet could then be strapped onto a child, and a parent would be asked to download the accompanying app to set a physical range that they wanted their child to stay in. If a child wandered outside of the range, the radar would alert the parent.

“This is a big business, and a business that you as brands and marketers should be investing in,” said Asif Khan, founder and president, Location Based Marketing Association, Toronto, ON.

Success abroad
Beacons have already seen success abroad, with successful campaigns such as Unilever’s Magnum ice cream. It debuted a new social app called M-Pulse that was synced to beacons in London and allowed users to identify where their family and friends were in relation to nearby places stocked with Magnum ice cream.

Users would then receive offers and rewards for using the app, such as free ice cream. Another successful retail campaign in Guatemala sent push notifications to mall guests to hijack them from competitor stores.

“A lot of these countries are mobile-first,” said Dave Mathews, founder and CEO of NewAer, Los Angeles, CA. “If you walk into a Macy’s, you see screens everywhere. In other countries, they’re leveraging the screen that’s in people’s hands first.”

However, consumers can expect to see more beacon experiences being rolled out in the coming year. Many large sporting events, such as the Super Bowl and the U.S. Open, have already leveraged beacons for their guests.

“A lot of retailers, venues and stadiums want to talk about this,” Gimbal’s Mr. Hunter said. “It’s about making sure the experience has value.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York