beacontechWithout doubts, beacons unlock the best of digital marketing at retail, if we brush aside privacy issues and the digital path of customer engagement by using a beacons framework looks promising. From enhanced point of sale to self-check-out to engaging customers to heat mapping store traffic--nearly every vendor is interested in tying the technology to their solution--and for good reasons, as beacons are poised to unlock much of the best practices that ecommerce companies have been using for years.

Now, the first multi-company partnership of beacon technology companies has been announced by the Opera Mediaworks Innovation Lab to go into a huddle. The common goal is to help advertisers improve mobile-media targeting, audience segmentation and measuring, thus making their buying smarter.

The Opera Mediaworks Strategic Beacon Alliance comprises Signal360 (formerly SonicNotify), ROXIMITY, Pulsate, Pinpoint Mobile and four other companies. Among the eight beacon platforms, the alliance effectively covers the majority of enterprise beacon activity in the United States.

“Until now, marketers have had to key off of digital signals (like websites that users recently visited) to understand where users sit within the customer journey,” says Scott Swanson, President, Global Advertising Sales, Opera Mediaworks. “With the launch of the Strategic Beacon Alliance, national brands can now leverage the rich data sets delivered by beacon technology to enable a far deeper understanding of their customers, based on a real-world, physical context.”

"This alliance will help those who want to move communication from a 'one-size-fits-all' solution to one that leverages data and location to increase personalization and timeliness,” Danny Newman, CEO, ROXIMITY adds.

Beacons among fastest-growing marketing technologies

According to BI Intelligence projections from Business Insider, by the end of this year, about 32% of retail locations of the top 100 retailers in the United States will have deployed beacon hardware and software. By the end of 2016, this percentage is expected to jump to 85% of retail locations.

“Much of the excitement around beacons has been around real-time messaging through branded mobile apps. For instance, a fast-food restaurant might send a push notification for $1 off to a customer, as they enter a location,” notes Andrew Dubatowka, Director of Innovation Product Strategy, Opera Mediaworks. “But, the real opportunity here is in the data gleaned from that process — the deep insights into the habits and behaviors of that customer,” he explains.

“Imagine segmenting and targeting users based on locations they frequent, for instance, identifying that fitness addict by seeing her hit a beacon in her gym every day, then serving her an ad in the evening when she’s browsing her favorite news app,” Dubatowka adds.

Reaching people in the moments that matter

To date, most use cases have focused on triggering relevant content and delivering notifications, based on a mobile user’s location and context. These use cases deliver great value to customers’ real-life experiences and can be a high-impact tool for marketers.

“Beacons are the rare technology in the ad tech world that offers a win for all parties, including consumers. For instance, one of our clients saw a 93% increase in basket size from users who recently received a beacon-triggered marketing message,” says Alex Bell, Founder & CEO, Signal360.

“In concert with beacons, our smartphones have the ability to provide real-life context to the digital world, allowing marketers to develop rich and unique insights about consumers’ lifestyles and relationships with brands,” explains Chia Chen, EVP/Managing Director Digital Products & Services, DigitasLBi. “These insights enable marketers to reach audiences in the moments that matter with experiences that are valuable to them, whether it’s with on-location, real-time alerts or smarter targeting across paid media.”

Consumer privacy is of utmost importance

Beacon-fueled targeting may be entirely new for mobile marketers, but privacy considerations are not. Thanks to previous challenges and the solutions that were put in place to solve them, today’s privacy standards for mobile consumers already allow them full control over their privacy.

Users can opt out of ad tracking within their device’s operating system, which would stop beacon-targeted ads. They can also manage location data permissions on an app-by-app basis, whether it is through GPS or beacon technology.

"It should all be up to the user, and brands need to be very up front and explicit with their requests," says Pulsate CEO, Patrick Leddy. “If you immediately ask for access to user location, it's likely you’ll get a poor response. It’s better to ask for it the second or third time, while educating users on the value they get from opting in,” he says.

“Consumers today have more control over their information than at any other point in digital history,” says Navid Zolfaghari, CEO, Pinpoint. “There is a very strong sense of responsibility within the mobile advertising industry to maintain consumers’ trust. I would even go so far as to say that we are ushering in a new era, where transparency is the norm, and user control comes first.”

We will see how beacon technology will impact our shopping experience in the near future, when we will get our first artificial intelligent agent to do your shopping, or even manufacture our desired products by utilizing 3D printing. One thing is clear, shopping experiences will change.

By Daniela La Marca