Beacons: let’s talk facts
In recent weeks, Polish experts in the mobile industry have solemnly and boldly announced the abject failure of Bluetooth Smart technology. And this is how marketing hype turned into internet hate. This is a paradox, because from London to Beijing to Silicon Valley, Poland is commonly known as the Valley of Beacons.
Reading about how beacons turned out to be yet another useless technology or why Wi-Fi is winning the battle of the customer, one can get the impression that the verdict has been delivered and there is no turning back. If the answer to the question “When was the last time you scanned the price of your jeans using beacons” is „never”, it means that the potential of this technology was overestimated in advance, probably by the lobby of its producers. Before I try to tackle this rhetoric, a word of clarification at the outset. It’s not about convincing anyone of the rightness of using BLE devices or making visions of certain success. Nor is the goal to take on beacon adversaries or analyze their business intentions (after all, nothing clicks as well as information about death and failure). In my opinion, putting Wi-Fi and beacons in opposition is like comparing a sports car to a family van. Each of these technologies has its own mission, has different granularity, different reach and elicits different interactions on operating systems. What’s more, those who benefit most from implementations are those who use their synergy – e.g. providing Wi-Fi so that users can download a BLE-based application. But I leave opinions and promises to the side for now. Let’s look at a few facts.
From a retail market perspective
It is difficult to make judgments about the future without trying to assess where we are today. In the last 6 months, the average size of a single order from leading beacon manufacturers has increased from hundreds to several thousand units. In total, according to ABI Research calculations, 3 million of these devices hit the market this year alone. Concretes? The best way to talk about them is to start with the retail sector, which popularized BLE technology.
While in Poland the belief that beacons are synonymous with coupons persists, these devices are widely used to build loyalty programs, optimize store navigation or offer personalized customer service. Referring to the jeans example – just because we don’t see beacons physically on store shelves doesn’t mean brands aren’t using them. For those who still fear that the need to have the right application and Bluetooth enabled is holding back the development of the market, just refer to the statistics. Take as an example the coupon app RetailMeNot, which in 2013 alone contributed to purchases of 3.5 billion dollars. It turns out that by giving customers real value, the download/don’t download app dilemma is no longer critical. It is also confirmed by the indicators generated thanks to proximity marketing. We are talking about a conversion rate of 50+ percent. or increase in new users by 600+%. when you add beacons to an existing app. So it’s hardly surprising that among the brands investing in this technology over the past 12 months there have been such multimillion-dollar players as IKEA, H&M, Macy’s, Target, Pizza Hut, Elle, Espirit, McDonalds or Carrefour. The biggest giants, including Groupon, Facebook and Google, also argue that solutions based on BLE are an opportunity for the SME sector, offering local businesses to join networks created by them. If these reasons are not enough for the opponents of beacons to become an advocate of BLE technology, I have another good information – beacons are being adopted even faster outside the retail market.
Beacons are not only about commerce
ABI Research enumerates exactly 20 sectors in which beacons have already found their application. Some of the most spectacular implementations can be observed on the OOH (out-of-home) advertising market. In addition to Stroer, which announced plans to implement 50 thousand. In Germany, Exterion is also deploying its massive network in London and the Netherlands. Such projects are not only the domain of Europe or the United States, but more and more systems are implemented in developing countries, including India or Malaysia (InteractionOne, Ebizu). Interestingly, solutions based on proximity marketing are today only a part of the biggest orders. 2015 was a breakthrough year, especially in terms of interest in solutions related to navigation and broadly defined analytics of the flow of people and goods. We are talking about projects for airports, the medical sector, or logistics, where beacons successfully help also in tracking inventory and optimizing processes. We’ll hear about many of these in the coming months, some of which are already public (e.g. airports in San Francisco, Berlin, Atlanta).
By the way, I would also like to mention that beacons are not only a pure commercial business, but also a great opportunity to build modern cities friendly to their residents. To charity program Contact.io Beacons For Good this quarter reported more than a dozen projects that are using these devices to change the lives of individuals and entire communities for the better. The potential of BLE technology has also been recognized by Google.org, investing this year one million dollars in the British startup Wayfindr. Organization works to standardize navigation for the blind on the London Underground using beacons. For skeptics I suggest a short trip to the Islands for inspiration.
Pole versus the rest of the world
There is no denying that the Polish market, in light of what is happening on the Ocean, still has a lot of catching up to do. Contrary to appearances, this does not mean that in the Valley of Beacons there are no interesting examples of proximity marketing. A perfect example in this matter are for example loyalty program projects of Gino Rossi (CTR for notifications is 85%).!The application has been implemented in shopping malls (Galeria Pomorska, Bonarka) and Polish museums (eg. MOCAK, Wilanów, Muzeum Śląskie). Interestingly, one of the Polish implementations has been recently awarded abroad – we are talking about the University of Lodz application SmartUni, which took 2nd place. a place in the prestigious EUPRIO competition. I wish myself and you such and similar successes in the coming year. The increase in the number of critics means that we are going in the right direction.