A beacon is a small piece of hardware about the size of a quarter that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to transmit messages (or advertisement) to a mobile device. For retailers, one of the biggest challenges they face is designing the omnichannel experience. In other words, users today typically buy a product after researching the product online. They may go into a physical store to investigate a product further, hopefully triggering a purchase. The purchase can be made online or offline, but for a retailer, the ability to interact with a customer whether that customer is online or offline is one of the reasons why beacons are interesting.
The biggest benefit of beacon technology is that a beacon can communicate with mobile devices, such as your cell phone or tablet, that are within range and without accessing the Internet. Meaning, a retailer can interact with their customer when they are near a beacon regardless of whether a WiFi connection is available or not. The problem, as I mentioned previously, is you need an app on your phone that can receive the message from the beacon.
Here are some reasons why I think traction for beacons has and will continue to be difficult:
- One-third of smartphone owners drive the entire app ecosystem, with seven percent of owners downloading nearly half of all the apps.
- Those who download apps spend 85 percent of the time on smartphones in apps, but only five apps see heavy use.
- Approximately 60 percent of users opt-out of push notifications.
I do think there are some apps well positioned to make use of beacons. I cover more of this topic in this Huffington post article.
For my next post, I will take a more in-depth view into the Physical Web, Google's experimental project that scans for scans for URLs that are nearby.
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