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Placing beacons within digital marketing strategy: Part 3 Customer experience: The wild card of Beacon implementations

This is part 3 of a three part series assessing key considerations for marketers developing beacon strategies. See part 1 here and part 2 here.

By connecting small, inconspicuous Bluetooth wireless transmitters on walls, shelves, doorways, and at check-out, retailers of all types can transform stores into platforms for tracking consumer behaviors and/or delivering relevant content and offers. Often, though, beacons go undetected, rendering the experience for the consumer seemingly unchanged, as it always was, plus a few more phone notifications…

Only, it’s not the same experience. The difference is one about which brands must be transparent. Why? Beacons allow retailers to sense patterns more effectively than ever before. However, when brands are able to associate these patterns with individuals, beacons aren’t just cause for omni-channel integration, but of privacy and ethical implications as well.

While the extent to which brands can message individuals based on their personal data varies (based on integrations, mobile opt-in, who is doing the messaging and whether or not the consumer has that app… at all, never mind open in-store…), the reality is this level of hyper-personalized targeting feels different to consumers ‘offline’ than it does online, where the digital connections are inherent. Herein lies an opportunity and risk for brands.

Brands must leverage beacons in ways that enhance customer experience, not detract from it with pushy ads, creepily sourced offers, or any other marketing touch that leaves shoppers feeling annoyed, distrusting, or even violated. Each time a beacon pings a customer, the brand risks encroaching on that customer’s personal space.


Not only is there an imperative for brands to exercise sensitivity and relevance when messaging, but the imperative extends both before and after the engagement as well—this is the heightened role of context in ‘offline’ digital engagement. To exercise sensitivity and transparency, as well as to maximize the investment of a beacon implementation, marketers must ask and be able to answer:

Before engagement:

  • Do our customers know they’re being monitored in our brick and mortar environment? How? Do they want to be monitored?
  • Is it clear how and where we are monitoring engagement? Do offers/content reflect contextual triggers? Is it intuitive?
  • How are we explaining the use of customer data to customers?
  • What is the nature of the content triggered (e.g. push marketing (ads, offers) or pull marketing (educational content, reviews, tools, videos, etc.)
  • How will content delivered vary? What other contextual elements might determine this (e.g. weather, loyalty, time, etc.)?
  • What caps on content delivery are in place? (i.e. don’t send the same coupon for the same product every time the consumers walks by the product)

During engagement

  • How and when have customers ‘opted-in’ to receiving notifications? If not in-store in real-time, is the connection obvious?
  • What is the proximity of customers to the beacon and how does this impact messaging? (e.g. 5 miles out, 100 ft., 1 ft.?)
  • How are we messaging the ‘value’ of [beacon-driven] in-store services?
  • If a brand within a larger retail environment (e.g. CPG brand at Walmart), how will beacon programs compliment each other (not overwhelm)?
  • Is the offer/content we’re delivering actually providing value? Is it relevant?
  • What levels of control are we giving customers in the process? Is it clear how consumers can opt-out?

After engagement

  • Are there feedback mechanisms in place to foster dialogue? Are they public (e.g. social media) or direct?
  • How can we aid customers in filtering the messages they find most valuable, most relevant?
  • What metrics are in place to measure relevance? (e.g. redemption, opt-out frequency, conversion, etc.)
  • How are we tracking engagement and tying it back to CRM? How will we determine the most appropriate next touch after a beacon-triggered engagement?

These questions are merely a starting point, and will vary by brand, industry, and consumer demographics. What these questions should illustrate is the level of consideration marketers must employ when developing beacon programs. Even when programs are more passive (for listening or tracking only), it is still critical consumers understand how their presence and data (particularly personal data such as location) are supporting brand agendas.

Most importantly, brands must remember that to enjoy the benefits of digital tracking and personalized content deployment they have come to appreciate online, transferring these to the real world requires they exercise heightened sensitivity and mindfulness of the experience, regardless of how invisible beacons may seem.

To Enhance Relationships, Brands Must Translate Value and Foster Trust

The potential for beacons expands far beyond tracking and measurement, (to real-time marketing, content activations, personalized offerings, etc.). But such potential will never bear its fruits in reality unless rolled into the larger context of the brand’s customer strategy, both digital and in-store. When integrated strategically, beacons can help enhance customer-brand relationships, but brands must clearly translate the value to customers, and not just in the form of coupons.

In an increasingly connected world—one where culturally sensitivities and concerns around privacy, surveillance, and nefarious use of data are widespread, and justified— brands must exercise more caution and transparency to foster trust, After all, all relationships are founded on value and trust, consumer-brand relationships being no exception.

Be sure to check out all three parts of this three part series.

Part 1: Measuring Beacons: Tiny Beacons Add up to Big Data

Part 2: Strategic Alignment: Without Integration, Beacons will Only Add to the Noise

Image sources: Internet Retailer, cdn2.itpro.co.uk

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