Six tips on how and why retail brands should use beacon technology

As the marketing industry sees retailers scale the use of beacons technology, Matt Alcone, founder of Omnicom owned agency Alcone Advertising, offers six tips for using beacons to target consumers.

About the relationship with retailers and brands

Ultimately beacons are going to be a communication channel for retailers. Retailers are not going to allow brands to have a separate dialogue with their shoppers in their stores and interfere with the shopping experience they seek to create. Retailers will have their own Beacon networks and brands will be given an opportunity to participate for a price.

Additionally, since Beacon messaging has to be opted into through an app, it is unrealistic to ask shoppers to access this messaging through multiple brands apps within a single store, rather than a single store app. And, it is just as unrealistic to think that retailers will join together on a single app which allows for intelligence of their shoppers in their stores being shared with other retailers.

Therefore brands should be thinking about what they can do to create added value for retailers and enhance the shopping experience. This is not just about delivering coupons.

This is a great opportunity for brands to sit down with retailers and offer new solutions to drive the retailer's business.

Messaging and experiences delivered via Beacons

As an agency guy, I'm focused on the quality of messages and experiences delivered via Beacons.

Just as all Super Bowl commercials aren't all equally as effective neither will be the messages and experiences delivered via beacons.

Better strategy and better creative will always win out. While the technology is great, ultimately all the technology will come to parity just as the technology of different brands of TVs have come to parity and pretty much the technology of different mobile devices have come to parity. The differentiator will be the strategy and creativity of the messages and experiences delivered. Not the technology.

Various current beacon marketing applications

Beacon messaging is not an island. It needs to be integrated into an overall consumer journey experience.

This experience includes knowing the consumer. Part of knowing the consumer is the analytics that can be done based on what we know about their behavior on and off-line. What brands do they like on Facebook, what kind of recipes and dishes attract them on Pinterest, etc. Part of knowing the shopper is instantaneously accessing the retailers own CRM, frequency and loyalty programs for past purchase history. Part of knowing the shopper is accessing what's on the shopper's own mobile device such as their calendar to see if this shopping trip is a regularly scheduled event or if it's a pantry loading trip based on just returning from vacation. Also what kind of food does the shopper like based on what restaurant selections they pick from Yelp or OpenTable. Soon all of this information will come together and deliver the ability to do programatic individual message delivery but now overlaid with location. Therefore every application that is currently out there is going to be outdated very quickly.

Closing the loop

Most of us are now focused on the outgoing message delivery to shoppers. Quite frankly, the data and analytics we get back is just as valuable. Through beacons, we now have a very accurate and reliable source of information regarding shopper visitation and frequency, as well as shopper pathways within the stores. With instant feedback, retailers will be able to adjust messaging based on these factors in addition to their own in store inventory levels to maximize sales.

Don't forget about on premise

While a lot of attention is now being given to beacons in a retail environment, it will have just as much value in on premise environments such as bars, bowling alleys , convention centers, stadiums, arenas, etc. Here too the on premise locations will be the owners of their own beacon networks and will seek to work with brands to increase sales and improve the on premise experiences.

Go forth and experiment

This is still the early days for Beacon messaging. Nobody has it mastered and the exact right formula is yet to come. Now is the time to go out there test different schemes, offers and messages and to see what works best.

Matt Alcone is the founder, chairman and CEO of Alcone Marketing Group.

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