Commentary

Beacons & Meeting Consumer Needs

Beacons are so small yet such a big deal.

That was one of the astute observations that struck me at the MediaPost IoT: Beacons conference held in Chicago yesterday.

“This is a really complex subject for something that seems so simple: a signal,” said Ian Beacraft, manager of new and emerging technologies at Leo Burnett, who led the panel “Beyond the Trigger: New Models for In-Store Creative Advertising.”

The discussion centered on the activities from the consumer end rather than the beacon technology end, with all the complexities involved.

“It's about what you actually do once you’ve got the signal out to the consumer and what is involved in developing and creating for an experience, all the stuff that happens behind the scenes,” said Beacraft.

And that’s where beacon innovation is still in the early days, though there is a lot of innovation and experimentation going on, along with some hurdles.

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The speakers frequently noted that beaconing was less about the technology and more about relevant consumer interactions.

“It’s about the needs, wants and goals of real people,” said Scott Varland, creative director at IPG Media Lab.

“Some of the roadblocks put up around beacons are that technology people like to make things sound complicated, sometimes more complicated than they really are. There’s always a solution, so push and you can find those answers, as long as you’re going in with a concrete problem that you’re trying to solve.”

Another suggestion was to carefully decide on which beacon technologies to use.

“How stable is the app you plan to use and who is using it?” said Ben Murphy, director of technology at FCB Chicago. “If you’re really going to roll something out, build a prototype, have an idea of how it’s going to work, play with it a little bit before you go full scale and you can save yourself some headaches.”

An interesting take on the Internet of Things was that the consumer is at the center of various sensing technologies, such as beacons.

“In all reality, it’s your environment, whether it’s your car or your home, you’re that central entity that everything else is going to be interacting with,” said Tom Edwards, EVP of digital strategy at The Marketing Arm.

“It starts with the data piece and understanding the consumer and what’s going to motivate that individual.”

A consistent suggestion for any large-scale beacon deployments was to walk before running, heard multiple times throughout the conference, along with the idea of carefully selecting the correct technology and aligning with consumer activities.

“Look at behaviors over targets, or demographics or anything else,” said Varland.

The issue is not the beacon; it’s the consumer need.

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