Beacon Technologies: Conversions or Cons?


June 2, 2016

These days, more and more marketers are looking at mobile adaptation as the the game changer that will propel e-marketing to the next level. But are beacon technologies a brave new world of infinite potential?

Optimization. Space. Mobility. Experience. These are more than just simple buzzwords invented by erstwhile compilers of marketing lexicons; they’re fundamental and definable aspects of the consumer psyche. Finding a platform that adequately comprises all four aspects, on the other hand, isn’t as simple of a solution as you might think.

For the past few years, the marketing world has been abuzz with the introduction and all-pervasive presence of beacon technologies as the new standard for delivery. With cross-system platforms now available on Android, Apple and Windows OS, the initial Bluetooth technology breakthrough seemed to be a world ripe for exploration by savvy retailers. The question is: why are retailers dragging their feet? And will shoppers be receptive?

Turning to Face the Strange

One of the biggest delays in establishing beacon technologies as an integrated platform to enhance customer experience is the very novelty of it. Despite the ubiquity of mobilecentric GPS technology, the fear of beacons as an invasive and dystopian nuisance seemingly reminiscent of 1984 was enough to make more than a few overly cautious retailers even more skeptical upon Apple’s standardization of the technology in 2013.

The skittishness is not entirely unfounded, but reticence of adoption may have to do more with the lack of consumer awareness of the utility of beacon technologies and less with fears of privacy intrusion. A 2014 poll by Harris announced that only 57 percent of smartphone users were aware of beacon technologies, while only 20 percent had actual experience with the platform. On the other hand, a poll conducted by marketing consultants Swirl (a strident champion of beacon technologies) conducted that same year showed that over 70 percent percent of consumers polled would be more apt to purchase in-store as a result of beacon-triggered content.

Logistics and Locality

Fear and hesitation aside, beacon technologies also present a number of broader potential dilemmas, not least of which is physical space and integration. White the transmitters themselves are relatively small and unobtrusive (literally measuring only a few inches,) both the accessibility of range and optimal placement will vary considerably from location to location. Obstructions in signal recognition are both common and unavoidable in many instances, prompting many retailers to realize that full-scale beacon integration may not be an infallible breakthrough they initially hoped for.

Learning to standardize location-based strategy may however be a minor concern in comparison to the challenge of both increasing and optimizing manpower. The hurdles of adequately training salespeople may not be entirely eliminated as a result of automated technologies, but there will be an increased need for a more resourceful and better educated physical staff. While learning to coordinate the upsurge of technological advancement with existing manpower has never held a failsafe guarantee, the adaptation process during beacon integration is more integral than ever.

The Ultimate Benefit?

Despite the aforementioned hurdles and limited audience penetration to date, the underlying benefit of beacon technologies are their ability to, quite literally, revolutionize the customer experience. The potential to tailor specific key sales attributes to a specific demographic in a specific locale will help customize the retail experience to ensure a unique and organic customer perspective that is both fresh, vital and replicable. Beacons may have their initial drawbacks; but the potential vistas that may unfold as a result demand a much closer examination than mere limitations.

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