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The Next Big Thing: Beacons

The next big thing for local SEO is here, and we’re here to make you aware. Major tech companies like Google and Facebook have already implemented beacon technology and are actively seeking early adoption of beacons on the store-level.

What is a beacon?

No, we aren’t talking about the game Minecraft here. A beacon is essentially a small Bluetooth tracker that takes B2C businesses one step forward. The name beacon, cleverly chosen, says a lot about what it actually is. By definition, a beacon is a physical light or other visible object serving as a signal, guide, or celebration. Two terms you may hear thrown around are PB (proximity beacon) and BLE (Bluetooth low energy beacon). All beacons are physical devices that operate based on proximity, and all beacons use a low-energy Bluetooth signal to operate. Beacons are also a cloud platform device.

What are beacons used for?

Beacons can be used to foster customer engagement, send quick knowledge, and drive sales. Beacons can send push notifications to people within a certain distance of the device. Brick and mortar stores can send specials or savings to in-store customers to encourage purchases or give them helpful business information that solidifies trust. Public locations like bus stops can provide information that is publicly accessible and will help people get information instantly, such as what time the next bus is stopping there. Beacons can also encourage user-generated content. Users are encouraged to add images of your business and leave an online review of your business.

Beacons are a new way to ensure your customer is getting accurate, up to date information when they want it. It is also a way to rely less on salespeople and reach people when they are most engaged, or conversely if they are in your business but may still be price comparing on their phone. Beacons can be an excellent way to seal the deal or promote your “why buy” message.

With Google beacons, businesses can also promote a URL, which allows customer interaction with Google’s Physical Web product. Physical Web is a platform that finally acknowledges consumer behavior in real-life. Physical Web allows you to interact with what’s around you – interact with inanimate objects or choose web pages related to your surroundings.

How does a beacon work?

A Bluetooth signal will initiate information transfer when a customer is within a certain radius of a beacon. One important thing to note is that beacons are ONE-WAY information transmitters, so they will not be collecting data or violating any privacy laws. Instead of taking information from your phone or you personally, beacons are only submitting information to you. The Facebook beacon will display information when a user is using the Facebook app within the beacon range. Facebook will show Place Tips, a welcome note, and photo. The Facebook beacon will also encourage users to like the business page and check-in to the business. Being a social app in nature, it will also display recommendation information from a user’s Facebook friends.

How much is a beacon?

The Facebook beacon is currently free, but the timeline on receiving after requesting is unknown and the prioritization of who receives them first is undeterminable. There are several companies that you can purchase the Google-compatible beacons from, including iBeacon, Eddystone, and AltBeacon. Google beacons average $25 per device.

How do you activate a beacon?

Both Google and Facebook beacons will come already activated right out of the box. You simply have to place them in a fixed location, preferably a doorway. Some beacons also work by USB power instead of an internal battery – these must be plugged into a computer at all times.

The Future of Beacons

Beacons may begin to collect more accurate data on key business factors like the busiest time of day and the average foot traffic of each location. While these are relatively simple devices, they may be able to track the aggregate number of impressions served over a certain timeline and report back on them. While those statements are just a theory, one thing is for certain: beacons will be an effective way to engage with the formerly disengaged customer who is more focused on their phone than the world around them.

From an advertiser perspective, beacons may help assist with the Store Visits objective. The current challenges with Store Visit measurement is primarily geographical; currently only large, freestanding stores like Whole Foods and Target have effective store visit capability and measurement. Anonymous solutions like beacons may bridge the gap for the large percentage of business that is currently unable to measure in-store success and cross-attribution from their digital campaigns.

To purchase or request your beacon, use one of the links below:

Request a Facebook Beacon 

Join Project Beacon by Google

Other Helpful Links:

Edit your beacon settings for Facebook
Edit your Google beacon information

Purchase Beacons Directly 
For a more technical explanation of beacon functionality, see g.co/beacons.

Holly Hingle

Holly Hingle

Director of Social Media Advertising at Click Here Publishing
Holly Hingle, Executive Director of Social Media and Search Engine Optimization, successfully manages a multi-million dollar portfolio and aligns the fufillment team initiatives for a cohesive organic and paid digital presence. She provides successful strategies for regional healthcare systems, law firms, retail brands, and leading automotive groups, including the #1 Honda and Chevy dealer in Louisiana and the #1 BMW and Hyundai dealer in the USA.
Holly Hingle
Holly Hingle

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