Beacons are becoming so yesterday.
Not beaconing, for sure, but the actual standalone, battery-operated, radio-transmitting beacon.
Beacons aren’t actually going away, they’re becoming embedded into other things, from lighting to Wi-Fi access points in large stores.
More importantly, the location data from beaconing is now becoming much more integrated with other location data, such as from Wi-Fi and GPS signals.
I spent some time at the headquarters of Swirl the other day to get a read on this new value proposition.
I’ve been pretty closely tracking Swirl since when it was a small Boston startup.
Many thought Swirl was a beacon company, since it used beacons in stores for retailers to capture and utilize data. However, it really was always a company that leveraged location for its advertising platform.
At the time, beacons happened to be the most efficient way to more precisely target shoppers.
But over time, beacons became part of a larger scheme.
In the case of Swirl, beacon location is now being used in conjunction with Wi-Fi and GPS, said Rob Murphy, vice president of marketing.
The company has some significant beacon-empowered installations at retailers including Lord & Taylor, Urban Outfitters, Alex and Ani, Timberland and Hudson’s Bay and its investors ($32 million so far) include Twitter, SoftBank, Simon and Hearst.
The general idea is that a retailer could send a message to a shopper in a parking lot when within a certain number of feet of a store offering a deal at the store. When that shopper enters the store and signs into its Wi-Fi, another location point is captured. And when that shopper nears a beacon in a department, yet another data point is captured.
All that that data could be used to trigger an instant, targeted message or offer or simply filed away for later use.
And that later use idea is where the power is.
Although Swirl captures and saves only phone identification information, without any personal info, that data stream can be sent to a retailer, who then could match that phone ID with personal data they have, such as from their loyalty program.
This means that future targeted advertising from that retailer could incorporate all the knowledge of what their loyalty shopper did over a specific period of time.
From the consumer’s viewpoint, they may never receive a beacon-triggered message in a store, but may later receive highly relevant online advertising based on where they shopped, including what stores and what departments. All of these programs are opt-in, of course.
From an auditing standpoint, this means a retailer, brand or agency could monitor their ad effectiveness in real time, since they can track and compare the location activity of those who received certain online ads and those who did not.
In my last book, Mobile Influence, I referred to these opportunities to target customers as influence points along the Mobile Shopping Life Cycle.
Beaconing added with Wi-Fi and GPS now allow much more targeting at each step of that mobile cycle.
The new model is effectively about identifying mobile presence, not just one location where a phone is at a given moment. The data then can be used for extreme personalization, attribution and later retargeting.
It’s about gluing the online and offline worlds together.
Beaconing is joining the marketing and advertising ecosystem.