Beacons Coming to Small Businesses in a Big Way

Beacons are coming to a mom and pop shop near you.

But unlike most other beacon implementations, these beacons will not be used to trigger any kind of advertising or other messaging to consumers.

The beacons will be used to automatically check-in customers when they enter a store and let the merchant greet the customer by name at checkout.

The beacons are now being shipped to thousands of small businesses as an add-on to their customer loyalty programs.

The beacons are free and being sent to merchants by the Perka division of global payment processor First Data, which acquired loyalty app Perka last year ago and integrated it into the First Data systems.

The Perka app, with hundreds of thousands of users, has been around for a while providing small businesses like coffee shops and pizza places a way to reward loyal customers.

The way it has worked is a customer walks into a store, opens the app and checks in, if they’ve opted in to the service, of course. The merchants promote the app to their customers and provide various loyalty incentives, like a free cup of coffee after so many purchases, for example.

The Perka loyalty app is integrated with the merchant’s payment system so that during checkout the person’s name and photo pops up at the register along with any rewards due the customer, Robert Bethge, chief marketing officer of Perka, told me earlier today.

Adding beacons to the store will automate the process.

The merchants are to place the beacons, usable by both Apple and Android phones, at the store entrance or near the point of sale, which then syncs with the Perka loyalty program.

Customers with the app on their phone then can be identified when they walk in. The app does not even open.

“We can check them in,” said Bethge.”The merchants love finding out the names of their customers.”

Anyone who doesn’t want to be known has a number of options, including not using the service, not opting in for automatic check-ins or turning off Bluetooth.

Bethge expects the adoption of the beaconing to be fairly high, especially among the retailers who heavily use the Perka app and dashboard.

“Use of the beacon has been a highlight, a little of the sizzle,” he said of the loyalty program.

Although initially being used to automate check-ins, future potential uses could include marketing messages and special offers pushed to those who want them.

Another obvious future potential could involve payments.

First Data, with 24,000 employees in 35 countries, processes more than 2,000 financial transactions per second, totaling $1.8 trillion a year.

“As part of First Data, we’re their mobile app,” said Bethge.

But for the moment, mom and pop shops will be using beacons as more of a service than a marketing tool.

Beaconing marches on.

Beaconing? Learn all about it at the MediaPost conference on beacons, Nov. 3 in New York (IoT: Beacons).

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