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Beacons – The Future is Here

Many years ago when I started using text messaging, I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be great if I could get a text message when I walked into a store with a coupon code good for that day”? That is now very possible. Here is the combination of of various technologies and business trends will serve a platform to provide this.

  • The first technology is the cell phone – uniquely identified to me and always present, I can receive short amounts of information on it at any time.BeaconsGraphicDavidHoward
  • beaconsgraphicdavidhowardThe next item is the technology and trend of “reward cards” – those little plastic cards we carry on our key rings, which we flash at the cashier when checking out so we get some future reward. What the card gives the merchant is a way to track our specific purchases and the patterns around those.
  • Online presence and advertising – the same merchants that we have a reward card with have a lot more information about us – what we view online – even if it is not their site. Cross site trackers collect our browsing and search patterns, so that the merchant knows what ads or articles we saw that contributed to our decision to purchase. At any time, a web page you are viewing may have 10-20 or more such trackers from different sources, all collecting data on you.
  • Targeted campaigns and CRM tools – Businesses can generate online ads or other collateral based on you browsing and purchase history. Did you ever notice how you searched for something online, and then for the next few weeks you keep seeing an ad pop up everywhere for that same item? You were tagged and now get targeted, personalized ads. The targeted ads can reach beyond your web browser: a phone number you are given to call can be generated and tied to a specific marketing campaign, so that they know exactly what ad(s) you saw and what interested you, so they can use a phone script that speaks to those desires.
  • Big Data and Business Intelligence – The ability to build enormous databases and search through them to find relationships and patterns very quickly is at an all-time high. The data collected from the cell phone’s location, your purchase history, browsing history, phone calls, etc. is combined to paint a very detailed picture of you. This is so accurate, that Target had a campaign that predicted a teen girl’s pregnancy, even when her father did not know yet. (
  • Beacons – this is the newest piece of the puzzle. The phone’s we carry can be tracked to a location, but it is expensive and does not always work well indoors, such as in a mall. But small, low power devices called beacons can be installed in the stores which use Bluetooth to communicate with our mobile phone. When we enter the store, it identifies us and quickly searches the database to identify things we have been looking at, or have a habit of purchasing. Then by sending a short message to our phone, we can be prompted to think about buying that item today. And adding a coupon code we present at check-out (or use our phone to pay), we may get discount or additional reward.

It all adds up to a powerful way to engage somebody without even talking to them and yet telling them just what they want to hear to make that purchase today. How do you feel about this – do you look forward to some new sound that says “You’ve got discounts!”, or does this freak you out?

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