Retailers nationwide are beginning to embrace the real-time, direct-to-consumer marketing power of beacons. The Coca-Cola Company demonstrated the use and potential of a new marketing platform at the NACS Show in Las Vegas. Here's what you need to know about this exciting new marketing solution.
What Are Beacons?
As a concept, beacons are refreshingly straightforward. These Bluetooth-enabled devices turn proximity into access by transmitting mobile marketing messages to consumers who have opted in via an app. At the same time, beacons anonymously collect data, so that over time messaging can become more tailored and more targeted. With that information, businesses can serve the right message to the right person at the right time, increasing the chances of moving certain customers down the purchasing pipeline and incentivizing others to change their behaviors.
How Do They Work?
The direct-messaging power of beacons relies on two things: a stationary transmitter (the beacon) and a mobile app. The transmitter could be placed inside a doorway, on a shelf or in a piece of equipment. When consumers with the related application on their smartphones come within range of the beacon, those consumers get alerts about deals, specials, coupons and promotional tie-ins with customer loyalty programs. For example, when a movie-goer using the theater's app on his or her phone enters the theater, that person could get a reminder — even a coupon — to purchase a Coke® and popcorn before the show.
Who Uses Beacons?
Large national retailers began experimenting with beacons last year, and the results have been promising. According to one business journal, beacons will directly impact more than $4 billion in retail sales in 2015. That number will increase as more and more business operators embrace the technology.
Midtown Red is one example of how Coca-Cola has experimented with beacons. The free mobile app, launched by Coca-Cola in 2014, connected Midtown Atlanta merchants with customers via iBeacon technology, pushing out custom offers such as celebrity chef nights, special museum exhibits and limited-time sales and discounts from participating restaurants, retailers and attractions.
In another example, Coca-Cola partnered with a theme park to test out iBeacon technology. Using the theme park's app, enabled with an iBeacon Software Development Kit and a network of beacons, the theme park collected data on traffic patterns and dwell time from park guests, revealing valuable marketing insights. The theme park is now using the network to deliver targeted offers to park guests.
Coca-Cola is using what it has learned from these and other pilots to help inform and transform its approach to marketing.
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