What is Beacon Marketing

Beacon marketing is geographically centered or location based tech marketing. Beacons are small devices that communicate with hand-held devices via bluetooth. Beacons can be placed unobtrusively in shops and other physical locations and communicate with handheld devices via bluetooth low energy signal (BLE). Beacons gather information by tracking customers very precisely and transmit personalized responsive messages to customers. This gives shop owners very precise data on customer movement and behaviour, while allowing responsive, personalized marketing.

Beacons are readily available, low cost, easily programmable devices. It is possible to programme them to send out many different types of messages which have multiple functionalities in connection with an app.

How does it work?

The beacons reach out to an app on a hand held device within a set range. The apps are tuned into particular beacons’ transmitted signals.

The customer must be within reach of the beacons range to be able to pick up the signal, have bluetooth switched on and the relevant app downloaded while accepting incoming message and responding to those messages.  

Beacons send out messages at particular intervals, and can be programmed to send out any message, discount codes, information, navigation services and much more. They may give specifically tailored options based on the beacons geographical location and the already known information about the certain customer, they reach out to – information, which is gathered from the customer’s previous use the app and interaction with beacons.

Mr Brown goes beacon shopping

An example could be Mr. Brown, who’s shopping for shirts at Men’s Clothing store XX. Mr. Brown has downloaded thesshop’s app and tracked his shopping and dressing habits to make the most of his closet. This means that we know hat Mr. Brown frequently rotate 7 shirts, three suit trousers and two jeans from Men’s Clothing store XX – we also have his clothes size and shoe size. A beacon at the entrance to the shop can greet Mr. Brown and ask what he is shopping for today. Mr. Brown swipes on shirts – the beacon then directs him to the shirts department. There, a beacon offers him discount codes on shirts in his size and preferred style – based on the actual shops current inventory. Passing by jeans and accessories, Mr. Brown gets an offer on jeans and a new belt, that would match his style – maybe he could use a spare pair?

When Mr. Brown approaches a sales clerk, the clerk can see what Mr. Brown is looking for and offers specialized help through his own hand held device. If the in-shop device is set up for payment on spot, Mr. Brown can pay directly to the clerk and leave with his new clothing.

Multiple uses

Beacons have many other possible uses apart from in shops – restaurants, museums, hotels, amusement parks, supermarkets, schools and universities, public services, libraries, travel hubs such as airports or bus and train stations and much more.

They function particularly well in connection with loyalty programmes and apps, that customers use on a regular basis when the app adds value to the customer’s life while tracking customer habits, such as travel itineraries, shopping lists, previous buys, meal planning, favourites, information and navigation search etc.

Beacons have a great potentiality for connecting virtual and live reality creating enhanced reality through technology and mobiles devices.

The customer data collection and marketing potential form beacon advertising is huge when used correctly to create a unique and added experience for shoppers and consumers. The cue however is to use beacons correctly; many customers haven’t been sold on the idea, so the point should be to use apps to improve customers service and experience, not just to drive sales up.

Some of the possible uses and customer benefits are:

  • App only offers
  • Loyalty programmes
  • Creating shopping lists through offers
  • Creating navigation routes
  • Shopping for ingredients/recipes
  • Personalize offers based on history
  • Improve service by notifying staff of the customers’ needs
  • Use apps and beacons to solve problems or ease the customers’ daily life

So what’s the catch?

However, the customer also needs to see the benefit and and added value to their experience in order to accept all steps necessary to receive beacon messages.


There are a lot of gateways to get through before the customer is even reachable par beacon. They need to have their phone on them, using it actively, having the current app, have accepted incoming messages, bluetooth switched on, accepting the beacons reach out and actively respond to it. That is a lot of opting in before the beacon message actually reaches the customers. Beacon and app providers are working on simplifying the process, e.g by allowing apps to connect via bluetooth automatically, or one-click app installation, but the customers still need to participate with an active process. That is why beacons are in no way a stand-alone marketing device, but a part of a much larger campaign, connecting virtual and live reality, giving the customers tools and advantages they can’t turn down. The use of app and connection to beacons must give the customer added value through content marketing to the extent where the customers actively uses the app and respond to beacon messages.

There are several issues to work around when working with beacon marketing. And it’s not only considering the marketing agenda, there are also technical issues to keep in mind when using beacons.

Technical issues

Beacons start working as soon as they are coede and have a functional battery – and they will stay functioning as long as the battery lasts. In other words, there is no off-button. This ensures that the beacons are functioning at any time a customer pass by, but it also means that placing out beacons needs to be planned quite meticulous, so errant signals aren’t being transmitted while work is still in progress.

Beacon signals may also experience interference from physical objects, which makes placing crucial. In shops with changing goods this is even more important – new  stocks shouldn’t be placed in a manner that blocks out the beacon signals.

Why hasn’t it taken of?

Many retailers haven’t bought into beacons yet, or haven’t made proper use of them. It’s a matter of both creating a functional app, that customers actively use and make use of beacons to create synergy and added value in context with the app. The knowledge of beacons and their potential isn’t widely spread, neither among business owners or consumers. Installing and using beacons demand a lot of planning and testing to ensure functionality. The use of apps and beacons in connection also demands an extensive marketing plan, in order to ensure that apps and beacons create advantages for the customers at few clicks, allowing them an easy way to an improved experience. This may also call for a demanding upfront investment, with a long-term pay-off. With many of the initial issues being solved and improved knowledge of beacons and how to use them, beacon marketing is ready to take off, and will become a must for major brands in years to come


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