Beacons: Product and consumer information at POS
We are now beyond the halfway point in our series ‘The Revolution of management systems imposed by Omniera’ and in this seventh article, we will examine how Beacons are becoming a fundamental technology for points of sale due to the fact they combine online information with that of products at the points of sale.
Beacons are proximity devices that send information directly to smartphone apps by Bluetooth. The beacons’ technology is known as an Indoor Proximity System, which in practice, makes it possible to locate objects or people who are carrying the aforesaid objects with much greater precision in closed environments. Therefore, it can be said that the beacons are for closed environments while GPS is for external environments.
In essence, beacon technology enables one to determine the position of a smartphone user on a local scale and to deliver contextual content regarding products, services, and institutional information to these users, based on their location.
The communication technology used by the beacons is called Bluetooth Low Energy. The main objective of using beacons is to enable faster interaction on the part of potential consumers, taking into account their interests, as they are presented by the companies. For example, in a clothing and accessories store, when a consumer approaches the shop window, he/ she will be able to receive details in relation to a dress or a pair of trousers that are in the store, such as: type of fabric, price, color options, size options, and related items (sets and kits), along with other information.
In general, beacons have an average range of 50 meters, for a shopping mall, corridors, for example, are a very viable initiative, as well as for within stores such as construction material stores, supermarkets, sports stores, department stores, and general retail stores, as well as museums, theaters, venues and festivals, performance venues, nightclubs, bars, resorts, airports, schools, and so on.
Application of Beacons in Omniera’s Business
Beacons are very affordable and can be installed on walls, in products, or in shop windows, enabling communication between the company and the public by means of localization and without any need for internet access, as they use the smartphone’s Bluetooth technology to send the messages.
This technology provides numerous options for transmitting relevant information in real time, such as when shopping at the supermarket, receiving product data such as promotions, nutritional information, and even recipes. Other applications can put together shopping lists and map the location with indications of where the goods that the consumer is looking can be found, helping the customer to find what he/ she is looking for inside the supermarket.
Restaurants and snack bars can use this technology to display their menus on the consumer’s smartphone. In the health sector, beacons can provide the exact location, within a hospital, a clinic, or a laboratory where the patient should go in order to do certain exams, reducing queues at the service points and at reception, facilitating the entire process.
In locations where there is a high circulation of people, such as shopping malls, performance venues, and event locations, it is possible to use the beacon to identify a consumer, registering that he/ she was at that location. This can be immensely beneficial for triggering personalized marketing actions, storing the time that the consumer was at the location, and comparing this information with any purchases that he/ she may have made. The next time this consumer pays a visit, it will be possible to send offers in line with his/ her profile, generating a more assertive and segmented action.
At shopping centers, performance venues and event locations, it will also be possible to share the agenda in terms of events, cinema schedule, the location of bathrooms, promotions that are in progress, and so on, for the convenience of consumers.
Putting it in a very simple way, once communication is established, there are two actions that can be taken by the system, namely:
Passive action simply refers to the act of storing in the local memory or in a database the fact that this connection happened. For example, storing the fact that smartphone code 999999 approached sensor code 888888888, which, translated, means that a consumer carrying a particular smartphone was in the children’s clothing section.
Active action occurs when this communication triggers some activity on the consumer’s smartphone. For example:
- The issue of a welcome;
- A suggestion that the consumer should record their visit/ interaction on a social network platform;
- Send a notification to the consumer that a certain product in the children’s clothing section is on sale.
Requests and Opportunities to Use the Beacons
However, it should be clear that the smartphone never sends consumer data to the beacon autonomously, avoiding privacy and security issues, with it being necessary for the consumer to explicitly authorize this when he/ she wants it to occur. The same principle applies to geographical issues because the beacon is unable to detect or extract from the smartphone the exact geographical location; it merely ascertains that a smartphone is nearby, within reach. Moreover, beacons are not able to install applications on a consumer’s smartphone for reasons of security.
Beacons work on various operating systems such as iOS, Android, and Windows as long as the smartphone has Bluetooth 4.0 or higher. A driver for the perfect experience with beacons is the requirement for the user to have an application installed on their smartphone. What could be regarded as a major problem, given that a number of people may not want to install an exclusive application, has become a great market opportunity.
Companies offer discount coupons and relevant content in applications that have become commonplace among consumers. In addition to coupons and content, these applications offer the possibility of interaction with beacons.
For example, when a person buys a ticket to a festival, he/ she ends up installing the event’s application in order to get detailed information regarding everything that will take place at the event, to check the times of the shows that he/ she wants to watch and so on. When he/ she arrives at the festival, the application uses the beacons to make this consumer’s experience even more interactive, providing information as to what is taking place at that moment, along with such useful knowledge as the location of the restrooms; the event’s food area; the gift purchase area, along with their respective options that may include purchasing an item directly using the application.
As beacons and their respective applications help streamline business processes and provide consumers with greater convenience and comfort, naturally, the applications that will support the commercial strategies behind the beacons will be ERP systems, as they are the major repositories where commercial strategies and customers’ historical purchase information is maintained. Therefore, it is only natural that within a very short period of time, ERPs will popularize the usage of beacons in the widest possible range of business areas that are already planned and managed by means of ERP systems.