The Beaconing Experience: Moving Mobile Commerce Beyond the Coupon

Beaconing is going to be a very big deal in mobile commerce.

At the recent MediaPost OMMA mCommerce conference in New York, Scott Varland, creative director at the IPG Media Lab, mentioned from the stage that he approaches beacons from an experience designer perspective.

“I’m most excited about things that are very experimental at this point and less excited about what’s actually in the market,” says Varland. “I’m an experience designer so I approach this experientially for users.”

This means moving past the give-a-coupon-on-site approach to beacons.

Yesterday I dropped into the IPG Media Lab in New York to meet with some of the top brains there, including Varland, Melvin Wilson, head of strategy, and developer Jason Fried to talk about the potential future of beacons and IoT (Internet of Things).

The spacious lab has screens everywhere, some to portray the living room TV viewing behavior of the future and others to show the potential shopping experiences to come, courtesy of beacons and various networked sensors of all types and sizes.

The reality is that beaconing, which I wrote about here recently (Mobile Shoppers & the Act of Beaconing), is relatively new but has huge implications for the future shopping experience.

This is primarily because a beacon can trigger a specific smartphone action based on the increasingly precise location of the phone.

While initial beacon deployments typically have beacons installed at certain location within retail stores, the IPG Lab team pointed out that future beaconing ultimately can be almost anywhere.

An example Varland uses is a test they did with Yahoo using a sports fantasy app. A consumer could walk into a Buffalo Wild Wings and beaconing can let them know which of their teams are on which screens. The messaging can usher the person over to the bar and then perhaps offer a coupon for a drink once there, since the person arriving there can be detected.

The point is that the beaconed consumer receives useful or helpful information rather than being blitzed with coupons as they walk in the door.

In one retail testing area of the lab, sensors detect what product a consumer is reaching for and instantly changes the screen on a shelf to play a video relating to that product.

Ultimately, the space conforms to the individual.

Another lab example is beaconing from a poster of an upcoming movie that can trigger a unique smartphone screen experience and even a recorded phone call to the mobile phone user. All of these obviously would be consumer opted-in programs.

Beaconing also can create a potential VIP experience, with salespeople as well as sensors in a store knowing what you’re looking for and providing quick guidance to that product.

The IPG team noted that future beaconing will not be stationary, since beacons can be put in cars, for example, and ultimately provide as-yet determined experiences once more sensors are networked together.

While consumers are not likely to become familiar with the terms beacon or beaconing, they may learn that they are within an area or a zone where beacons can enable certain interactions.

The challenge for marketers is to assure that whatever is sent within a beaconed zone satisfies and even delights the mobile shopper.

As the IPG Lab team would preach, it’s not about the beacon, it’s about the experience.

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