This is a guest blog post from Sharat Potharaju, CEO and co-founder of Mobstac.
With a little over 4 Million beacons deployed globally, 2016 is fast proving to be the year of the beacon, as predicted by experts. Over the past few months, a number of leading brands such as Rite Aid, a pharmacy chain, and Screenvision, a movie theater management company, have gone on to announce major beacon rollouts, while others like Samsonite and Blue Maestro announced their plans to launch a range of products with inbuilt beacons. For instance, Samsonite recently proposed to launch a line of smart luggage that leverages Eddystone-EID beacons to help users keep track of their baggage with ease.
Even among all this promising buzz, many businesses today are still struggling to get started with their proximity marketing campaigns. This is because most of them are left indecisive when faced with questions like:
- Which beacon protocol suits my business best?
- Should I opt for beacons with Eddystone protocol as it allows me to kickstart my proximity marketing campaigns without an app?
- Or, should I opt for beacons with iBeacon protocol as it allows me to reach out to the majority of my customers on iOS, with ease?
From our conversations with our clients we have realized that in spite of massive surge in beacon deployments, there is still little-shared information on the first and the most important step to running a beacon pilot - choosing the right beacon protocol for your business.
To be quite frank, there are a number of critical factors that businesses need to think through before deciding on a beacon protocol for their proximity marketing campaign. Let’s take a look at them in detail:
1. Availability of a beacon-enabled app
While mobile is driving marketing budgets and plans in 2016, many SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) even today are yet to set a solid foot in the mobile ground or, in other words, launch a mobile app. Thus, while most big brands like Macy’s, Barneys New York, JFK International Airport, have been busy running successful beacon pilots, many SMBs have been struggling to get started primarily because of the need for a beacon-enabled app to interact with consumers.
Few businesses have approached this problem in an interesting way by leveraging popular third party apps such as Shazam, WeChat, etc., to offer enhanced proximity driven experiences to customers. For example, Entertainment company Fox, recently leveraged a beacon network in London buses to push Kung Fu Panda 3 content to commuters via Shazam, as a part of a promo campaign for the movie.
Then again, many other businesses have struggled with this as well, as they were unable to zero down on a third party app that is widely popular among their consumer base. This is exactly where Google’s Eddystone comes into the picture. This Internet of Things initiative allows businesses to do away with the need for an app by allowing them to broadcast the ‘Eddystone-URL’ packet to any consumer who walks by the beacon with a Chrome browser app on their Android or iOS mobile device.
Thus, if your business already has a popular app in place, then it’s probably best to leverage iBeacon technology as it allows you to personalize content and use insights on consumer behaviour to strengthen your sales. On the other hand, if you don’t have an app in place, then you can simply choose to go ahead with Eddystone. With Chrome app having surpassed 1 Billion monthly active users, this beacon protocol is sure to give you instant access to a wider audience base.
2. Primary audience base - iOS or Android?
Few marketers are aware of the fact that there is a significant difference in the manner in which iBeacon and Eddystone beacon protocols function on Android and iOS devices. For example, in the case of an iOS device, scanning for beacons with iBeacon protocol around the user, is done at the level of the Operating System and employs Core Location framework, while scanning for beacons with Eddystone protocol is done using Core Bluetooth, a framework originally designed for other purposes like connecting to headphones or other wireless devices nearby.
Thus, leveraging beacons with iBeacon protocol will help you optimize device battery consumption and scanning performance on iOS devices while beacons with Eddystone protocol will cause a significant drain in the battery levels of your consumer’s iOS device, even if you leverage an SDK to address this optimization challenge. Adding on to that, with the Chrome browser app currently available on most Android phones by default, Google allows businesses to reach out to a wider audience on Android with ease. However, this strength of Eddystone is currently non-existent for iOS, as most iOS devices don’t come with a default Chrome browser app on the device.
Thus, if majority of your audience segment:
a) are iOS users, then it’s probably best to go ahead with iBeacon technology
b) are Android users, then it’s probably best to leverage beacons with Eddystone protocol
3. Need to leverage user-behaviour analytics
It’s no secret that beacons are increasingly being leveraged by businesses across various verticals to extract insights from consumer data. For example, retail stores can leverage iBeacon technology to gain insights on visitor distribution over various sections within the stores, highlight the paths taken by shoppers, repeat visit patterns, and much more.
However, when it comes to proximity marketing campaigns that employ beacons with Eddystone protocol, especially the Eddystone-URL data packet, not much of this is possible as there is no app that provides access to previous purchase behaviour. However, using Beaconstac Eddy Kit, businesses can now gain access to analytics data such as customer dwell time, customer response rate, link timestamp, frequency of link open, etc., on the Beaconstac platform dashboard.
4. Need to offer personalized services
Given their innate ability to do away with apps, beacons with Eddystone protocol (especially the Eddystone-URL data packets) are best suited for campaigns that allow businesses to target users based on their location. For example, brands can leverage beacons with Eddystone protocol to target users, who have not installed their app, by sending a custom URL that either leads consumers to the brand’s website or a webpage that could help incentivize the app download. Brands could also direct users to a youtube video of a recent event at the store or even direct them to the Facebook page of their brand. Another potential use case would include targeting users with URLs to customer satisfaction surveys as they stand in queue at the billing counters in the store.
On the other hand, iBeacon technology, with its ability to work alongside a beacon-enabled app, is best suited for personalized marketing campaigns. For example, late last year, Coca-Cola leveraged iBeacon in CAPA cinemas, Norway to precisely retarget movie-goers. As a part of the beacon pilot, a beacon-enabled notification for a free Coke that could be redeemed at the counter, was sent out to all movie-goers who had the Norwegian publisher VG’s app on their phone, as they walked through the CAPA hallway. Beacons were used to gather data on users who had redeemed the offer, and retarget them with a free cinema ticket that could be redeemed at the movie theater.
5. Presence of a large existing beacon fleet
Say, you already have a large fleet of beacons that supports only iBeacon on the firmware level. You can easily update the beacon firmware to support the Eddystone protocol, as per the instructions provided by the beacon manufacturer. However, at a rate of 3-5 minutes/beacon, for the update to occur, the process can be quite time-consuming. Given this, many companies choose to do the update and test Eddystone for a couple of beacons and then order some extra ones, instead of switching their entire existing infrastructure over from iBeacon.
Looking to kickstart your Beacon Pilot?
Join us for our upcoming webinar ‘The A to Z of Planning Your First Eddystone Beacon Pilot’ on May 10th, to understand what a beacon pilot is all about, the kind of investment it involves, and how to run a successful Eddystone pilot. Register Now, Limited seats available!
About Sharat Potharaju
Sharat Potharaju is the co-founder and CEO of MobStac, a company offering a marketing and analytics software platform utilizing beacon technology.