While beacons themselves don’t really do a lot, they’re going to cause a lot of things to be done.
Aside from the misplaced perceptions that beacons will cause consumers to be bombarded with unwanted ads as they walk through stores, the little devices are starting to be used for simple services.
The process is somewhat like the flow of rolling out mobile payments. The technology has to be deployed and installed and then the particular system has to be turned on or activated, along with staff training.
In the case of payments, technology is being used to automate a process, ultimately migrating it to in-aisle payments, in many cases.
Among its other uses, beacons also are now being used to automate processes.
The Perka division of First Data last week started shipping beacons to thousands of mom and pop shops. Rather than triggering ad messages, the beacons are being used to automatically check in customers when they come into the store, as I wrote about last week (Beacons Coming to a Small Business in a Big Way).
Only a few days later, the LevelUp loyalty program launched its own beacon check-in program, allowing merchants to send automated and highly personalized messages to beaconed customers as they walk in (Hi, I’m Your Local Beacon – Welcome to My Store!).
They are seamlessly automating a manual process.
Now along comes SK Planet in South Korea, which is sending beacons to 10,000 stores across Korea, offering points whenever a customer enters a store.
The reason this is interesting to watch is that SK acquired check-in app company Shopkick a little over a month ago (Shopkick Bought for $200 Million), with plans to expand the Shopkick footprint.
SK didn’t need Shopkick for this project, since it already was under way before the acquisition. But the potential for similar deployments in the U.S. and Europe is obvious.
Before it was bought by SK, Shopkick already was installing more than 4,000 beacons in all Macy’s stores nationwide), in time for the holiday shopping season (4,000 Beacons Coming to All Macy’s Stores.
And earlier this week at the MediaPost IoT: Beacons conference, Lord & Taylor announced it was going to install beacons in all its U.S. and Canadian stores by the end of this month, though those are being used for in-store engagement programs rather than automatic check-ins.
A twist to the SK beacon check-in deployment is that the company is using geofencing for an automatic on/off function so that Bluetooth turns itself on and off as necessary when the customer comes within range of a participating store.
Beacons in the marketplace are starting to attain massive scale, as in 10,000 here, 4,000 there, etc., with many more on the way.
After they’re installed and customers tap in to beacons at scale, uses unimagined by most today will begin to emerge.
Those who were beaconing early, like Lord & Taylor, Hudson’s Bay, Macy’s, Hillshire, Marriott, Regent Street, Alex and Ani, House of Fraser and Hawes & Curtis, among others, will likely discover those unimagined uses first.