Commentary

A Million Free Beacons & the Cost of Beaconing

The cost of beaconing may be going up, but the price of beacons may be coming down. As in way down.

One beacon company just announced that it plans to give away for free a million beacons to U.S. retailers.

And rather than pushing messages to beaconed customers in stores, the intent of beacon company ShopX is to use beacons to provide an in-store link from customer to sales employee.

The beacons are being built by ShopX and the company’s software platform will work with other beacons, such as those from Gimbal or Estimote, according to ShopX International CEO Wayne Kyle, who I caught up with by phone just before he boarded an international flight today.

The obvious question is what gives with the beacon giveaway idea.

“Beacons are going to get commoditized at some point anyway,” Kyle said.

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The company hopes retailers will be persuaded by the free beacon offer to try the ShopX platform, which comes with a monthly fee, as anyone might have guessed.

Kyle said the company is targeting large retailers, mostly chains. “This is so we can roll out 1,000 beacons at a time,” said Kyle. “It may take three months or three years, we don’t know.”

The interesting aspect of this, outside of the free beacons, is the intent to integrate the platform to link shoppers and sales associates rather than to send beacon-triggered offers to customers.

I saw some of this type of philosophical approach at the NRF Big Show this week, as I wrote about here earlier (In-Pocket, Phone Beaconing: Tapping into the Store Shopper).

“In-store navigation can be much more than finding products,” said Kyle. “It can be about finding people.”

And that is where the cost vs. the price comes in.

While beacons can be low cost or even free, training employees in how to interact with beaconed customers, or even to train them in what beacons do and don’t do, comes with a cost.

Corporate and in-store management teams have to be trained, processes that can take time and effort long after beacons are physically installed, one of the issues that will be addressed at the upcoming MediaPost IoT: beacons conference in February.

Strategizing on how to create effective beaconing, from apps development to types of messages, has to be worked out.

Such loss-leading, beaconing offers at least may tempt some retailers not already experimenting with beacons to take a serious look.

Any retailer not trying out beacons in their physical stores risks not evolving with all the new beaconing approaches and innovations.

And that could be more expensive than anything.

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Check out the coming MediaPost IoT: Beacons conference agenda for Chicago Feb. 10.

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