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ETail attendees say beacons’ marketing potential begins to emerge

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SAN ANTONIO, TX — While beacons are getting a lot of buzz and attention, retailers are still struggling to figure out exactly how to leverage the technology, and eTail West speakers and attendees were split on the exact use case.

Beacons are physical devices that can be placed in stores or outdoor venues to connect with smartphones and push messaging to consumers. With Apple, PayPal and others coming out with devices and a number of vendors developing backend systems, retailers and merchants are beginning to realize the opportunity that lies in the new technology.

Mobile Marketer’s Rebecca Borison asked speakers and attendees what their thoughts were on beacons and in-store tracking. Here is what they had to say, in alphabetical order by company name.

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Kyle Fuhrer, mobile manager at Alaska Airlines, Seattle, WA
We were actually meeting with Apple about this last week, and we’ve really decided that we're going to focus on using that technology to assist a customer at a specific location, so an example in our world is it can recognize when you’re close to the TSA and offer up an electronic boarding pass to assist you through that line.

Where we’ve kind of gone awry really is it really doesn’t pinpoint exact location, it’s kind of an “I’m near” technology, and if you think about it that way, you can create some rich experience sin the future.

Michael Trapani, Xtify sales account executive at IBM, New York
Beacons being used for more than just the triggering of a message is important, so being used as a data source. I work in a world of push notifications and messaging, so a lot of people think that beacon means a trigger of a message, but maybe you don’t want to send a message to someone every time they come to the clothing section, maybe you want to send it the third time they come. 

The best use case is when you think of it more than just an instant trigger. It’s building a relationship. That’s how people shop, they don’t always buy every time they’re there. Don’t bother them, but feed into the experiences you already know shoppers pave.

I think MLB is going to do something interesting this year. They have a lot of cool stuff rolling out in their stadiums. American Eagle is also rolling them out. We’re seeing some interesting roll-outs from other retailers, but I’m excited to see what MLB does because they’re working so closely with Apple and iBeacons. I think there’s nothing more location based as going to a ball game, especially when we’re talking about traffic flow.

Prat Vemana, vice president of ecommerce at Staples, Framingham, MA
The way I think about mobile and kiosk is that these two are the most possible connected experiences you can bring together. If you think about the ability to know the customer and the ability to know their preferences, it’s a much easier device and medium for us to engage on to actually facilitate the transaction between mobile and in-store. From that experience, we are thinking and there are things that we’re doing with the Velocity Lab that are currently going on – a lot of pilots and testing.
 
I think you’re seeing iBeacons that have battery life from three months to six months. It’s easy to say, “Let me ship these for 10 per store and all 1,600 stores get it,” but then you need to think through the maintenance of it and where it is in the use case that goes along with it.

Marcus Shelksohn, senior product manager of mobile at StubHub, San Francisco
It’s something we’re focused on as well at the venue itself. We can tell you which gate to go in to get to your seat, where’s the closest bathroom, ordering to your seat from your phone, anything micro-location based.

Joshua Bright, product manager of social commerce at Travelocity, Southlake, TX
From a travel perspective, I think there’s some really neat opportunities in terms of the media. Getting partners and creating a group of companies, like an ad exchange essentially that is interested in targeted ads, that’s where beacons can be a lot of help.

So a use case would be somebody goes out to New Orleans and we know based on their flight patterns they’re going there so we can give a heads up to media opportunists. And with beacons we can say well you are at this museum would you also be interested in these other museums or other things to do. The problem is that people need to be focused on exactly what they want to do, so beacons can color their experience with other opportunities.

This is in theoretical at this point. I haven’t seen anybody who has publicly talked about beacons but I wouldn’t doubt that some of the big players like Booking and Expedia are looking at it. I would say that it depends, the online travel agencies are a level separated from all of these different locations, so I think they’re going to be a bit slower to pull in beacon technology however if you look at suppliers like hotels themselves, or Disney. Disney is definitely implementing beacon technology [in their theme parks]. They have these bands where if you walk into a restaurant and you have this band they’ll start making your food you preordered. They’re starting to use this technology, and I think it’ll only expand in the future.

Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer. Reach her at rebecca@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Software and technology, mobile, mobile marketing, man on the street, eTail West

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