ibeaconEverybody is talking about iBeacons, the small transmitters based on the energy-saving version of Bluetooth 4.0, the standard Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). These small gizmos can be placed anywhere and send from there signals up to 30 meters to inform shoppers about special offers and promotions. However, an intelligent app needs to be installed on the mobile device, before it is possible to receive the signal of an iBeacon.

One application, for instance, can distribute messages at a specific ‘Point of Interest’ (store, bus stop, café, etc.), similar to previously used geo-push technology based on GPS, but with a much reduced impact on battery life and extended precision, as iBeacons usually work with button cells that are reliable for months or even years. Another application is an indoor positioning system, which helps smart phones determine their approximate location or context, facilitating not only advertising at the points of sale , but analyzing at the same time the purchasing behavior of customers in real-time. There is almost an infinite number of application scenarios that can be controlled by intelligent apps that spurs marketers’ interests, isn’t it?

Now, the first beacon projects in retail stores not only prove the great potential of the technology, but also reveal, as usual, that the theory still leaves some homework to be done in practice. Because, although the good user response is encouraging for a start, there are often more technical teething problems than expected. Let us look at the technology and strategy issues to be dealt with:


Check on site the mobile service reception: If the signal strength for the number of shopper is insufficient, consider offering free Wi-Fi in the store. That way your beacon is used optimally and your app can be downloaded directly.

Level Beacons individually: The first pilot projects have shown that obstacles and materials such as steel, coated glass, concrete and even the amount of store visitors can change the signal range of beacons. An individual calibration of the transmitter ensures that there are no overlaps.

Adjust the position of the Beacons at the POS to the circumstances and the Beacon strategy: If, for example, you want to address store visitors that leave the POS without purchase, then beacons must be installed at the cash register and the exit. For other strategies, simply look for suitable positions in the store.

Ensure data security: Make sure that only you as a company have safe access to the Beacon data. This includes two aspects: First, a secure encryption of data and Beacon ID; and secondly, making sure that only you have the control over the own data. Because, same as in the area of ‘Real Time Bidding’ (RTB), there are providers in the field of Beacons as well, that allow competitors to use your data for their own targeting.

Plan the start reliably: When you have completed the initial installation, it is best to start with a practical test of a manageable size. Whoever starts with promising customers sales discounts and then has nothing to offer due to technical problems is unnecessarily rocking the boat.

Pay attention to the terms: Check with your Beacon partner, which terms he can guarantee, not to avoid unexpected failures. As said, modern Beacons work up to two years when battery-powered.


Think holisticly: The Beacon application must be embedded in a comprehensive, customized marketing strategy in order to be successful, and include a holistic multichannel tracking. Only that way for instance, cross-retargeting is possible, which means addressing offline users targeted online and vice versa.

Create acceptance and awareness at the POS: For app installation, get the consent of the user (ideally via incentives), as it later increases the acceptance for sending push messages and indicates that your app via Beacons provides added value, point shoppers on-site to your Beacons offers. In addition, point out that Bluetooth must be enabled to receive signals.

Provide app marketing: For Beacons to be worth the trouble, their app must have enough reach. A reasonable package of measures should be SEO in each AppStore, Programmatic Advertising, and Marketing Performance via Adwords, as well as include Facebook and Twitter (optimized for CPI - Cost per Install). Depending on the features of your app, you can also rely on viral marketing or traditional PR.

Create added value: Both app and Beacons can more than just sell, through product consulting or in-store navigation they create attractive added value for your customers, so that they download your app. Coupons and discounts are part of it as well, but the app should not be perceived as a mere coupon machine.

Increase app usage: Via the feature "Suggested Apps", the user can be referred directly to your app at the POS, at the lock screen of the smartphone, either via your Beacons or via geo-fencing. In the latter case, it works even if the app is not installed yet. You can trigger additional app downloads that way, however, should offer free Wi-Fi to do so.

Less is more: Do not bombard the user with push messages under any circumstances, otherwise he will quickly log off. Users expect from apps and Beacons real benefit through individual contact and interaction, and then you reach a particularly interested audience with high relevance. Hence, do not use a scattergun approach, but selective, personalized communications.

Train your staff: This new technology has to be explained to them. You will only achieve the acceptance of Beacons, if your employees can explain Beacons as well as their benefits. They should also be able to properly respond to privacy concerns and explain that nothing happens against the users’ wishes.

The push for real-time marketing with some help of Beacons is creating amazing new opportunities for marketers and dealers.

By Daniela La Marca