Beacon technology is big in retail. Expected to drive $44 billion in sales this year, beacons are redefining the retail industry by pushing the convergence of digital and in-store even further. So, what is beacon technology, and what, if any, are its implications in your industry?
Beacon for Beginners
Beacons, simply put, are devices placed inside a location that send out an electronic signal, or ping, to smart devices. This ping is received by an app on the device, letting the beacon know a consumer with the brand’s app is within range. This allows stores to push messaging to customers who have downloaded their app. Beacons can tempt customers who are walking by a store (if they have the app), or offer special deals and exclusive content once a customer is inside. A brand’s app can store buying behavior and other information, enabling more personalized marketing opportunities. Apple has its own brand of beacon, iBeacon, but the tech is also available for Android devices.
Brands such as American Eagle and Dollar General have seen success utilizing beacon technology in their stores, using the devices to offer special incentives and exclusive “lookbook” content. But what can beacons do for industries beyond retail? Here are just a few ideas:
Beacons Knock Engagement Out of the Park
Major League Baseball adopted Apple’s iBeacon technology in 2014. For example, at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, 19 devices were installed at entry and exit points. The beacons detect fans with the MLB Ballpark app on their iPhones. While the app provides maps, concession info and seat upgrade opportunities, only fans using the iBeacon check-in receive special in-game features and deals.
The MLB has installed beacons in other parks, and provides guidelines for the type of content and the number of messages beacons should send. This focus on enriching the customer experience, rather than detracting it with an overload of spammy messages, ensures that beacon technology is a homerun with fans.
Beacons of Hope for Health Care
Beacon technology in retail may get the lion’s share of the press, but the number of possible health care utilizations is worth writing about. A complex industry in and of itself, the addition of a digital experience has proved fraught with perils for hospitals. Health care systems must contend with security issues, patient privacy concerns, as well as overcoming antiquated web designs and poor patient experiences resulting from fractured workflows between departments within a hospital. Beacons and dedicated apps offer myriad solutions to these issues.
Beacons at registration can simplify and streamline the check-in process. Patient information, including maps of the hospital, wait times, and legal disclaimer videos, could be available via the app. Beacons can help direct a patient through a hospital if multiple floors or departments are necessary. Patient health data could be updated via the app, and patient-to-doctor communication could extend beyond the hospital setting. Imagine walking into the emergency room and receiving a message of the approximate wait time. Or upon exiting the hospital, receiving a message with follow-up care instructions and a list of nearby pharmacies. We call that a prescription for a positive patient experience.
A Masterpiece of Engagement for Museums
Museums have been integrating technology into the visitor’s experience for years now, and beacons are at the forefront of new developments. With beacon technology, museums can share visitor information such as maps, tour schedules, special attractions, cafe menus, and more.
Beyond the lobby, by adding beacons throughout the campus, museums can offer exclusive content to visitors who have downloaded their app. Visitors can watch videos of an installation, listen to an explanation or analysis of the work, or share reviews of the piece within the app. Museums are hopeful that this freedom to explore the museum and still receive expert information will be attractive to Millennial visitors.
The beacons can also provide rich data to the museums, letting it know which rooms or specific artworks had the most pings from app users, as well as how many took advantage of special deals or shared information with their social network through the app. This, along with other data, can help a museum get a sense of what types of installations, and promotions, its audience responds to best.
Beacons in Higher Education Earn High Marks
Beacon technology has already found its way onto many college campuses, offering everything from student navigation to increased security. John Hopkins University uses beacons to help direct students and visitors around campus, and Stony Brook University created a self-guided tour using beacons. Several other colleges are using beacons to push special event messaging, as well as coupons for on-campus eateries and other information. The University of Mississippi has seen increased student attendance for athletic events since it upgraded its loyalty program by connecting it to beacons. Now when students attend an event, the beacon automatically checks them in and they earn reward points.
Beacons can also enhance security on campus, providing better information on where students are located during an emergency and sending relevant information or alerts. After dark, beacons could help security keep track of students’ movements around campus
These are just a few ways beacons are being used beyond the retail industry. What about your industry, your business? How could beacon technology change the way you do business?