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How to Implement Beacons in Mobile Marketing

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How to Implement Beacons in Mobile Marketing

Ben Roodman March 27, 2014

Adding Beacons seems like the holy grail of lower funnel mobile marketing, but there are still many hurdles to implementation. Imagine you’re in-store, perusing the aisle for your favorite brand in-stock, and then BAM!, a notification pops up on your phone informing you of a great new product from your favorite brand at a discounted offer. The likelihood that all the mobile adtech pieces will be in place to run a safe brand marketing beacon trial with measurable results is far from today’s infrastructure.

Connecting the pieces for a successful beacon campaign requires these five steps:

  1. Retail deployed beacons in-store
  2. A mobile application enabled with an integrated beacon sdk
  3. Permissions for the mobile app to talk to a specific retailer’s beacons
  4. Users opt-in to beacon notifications
  5. Budget

The Key Beacon Implementation Components Needed Details:

Retail deployment of beacons

Apple has beacons installed in Apple Retail Stores with their own iBeacon technology, but it’s unlikely that a national retailer with 1000’s of megastores has a beacon rollout plan. Smaller retailers probably haven’t investigated beacon technology or otherwise don’t have the in-house marketing team to drive deployments forward with IT. Local advertising agencies will also not likely have the sway with retailers to install in-store technology and they’ll instead continue to push Facebook & Google mobile budgets. Beacons are not widely deployed by retailers today but they do exist in select public spaces or outdoor shopping malls.

Additionally for brands without proprietary retail locations, product marketers can start to implement beacon campaigns without a full retail infrastructure by deploying disposable beacons within large in-store product displays.

Mobile Development Work
Mobile application developers and development design shops need to integrate a beacon SDK (software development kit) into a Retailer’s app or other mobile Shopping application in order to communicate with beacons. Development means maintaing more code, more update cycles with delays in mobile user’s updating to the latest version of the app. Your development team already has a 6 month roadmap ahead of themselves and beacon integration would require an adjustment in product priorities.

Application Permissions and Retailer Agreements
Even if a mobile application has a beacon sdk integrated or Apple and Google make beacon technology a default part of the operating system, beacon apps still need permission to talk to physical beacons. This currently is the biggest lacking step even if Retailers had beacons deployed. Beacon technology limits all physical beacons from talking to beacon enabled applications without permission. If that were not the case, any application with a beacon sdk could profit off the notification of their users without an incentive back to the retailers. Future ad networks will broker deals by saying “Let’s talk, let my network of beacon applications talk to your retailer deployment of beacons.”

Privacy and Permissions
Consumers on their mobile phone will need to have an app with an integrated beacon SDK installed, such as Qualcomm’s Gimbal; must have opt-ed into beacon notifications with prompted user permissions; and have bluetooth enabled on their smartphone while in-store. So far the only incentives for these user to share their privacy to a finite proximity that Brands are leading with is coupons. Are there larger incentives brands and retailers can use to get consumers to surrender their own mobile data? Regardless users won’t understand that those beacon SDKs also grab every mobile identifier on the device including IDFA, wifi mac address, carrier ID, usage data, and more.

Lastly, where will the marketing budget come from? Brands in 2014 are now starting to get on trend to see measurable results by investing more in mobile marketing budgets, but they’re still tiny overall compared to spending on desktop experiences and digital spending with Google. The previous beacon implementation requirements before getting to the budget stage will require a lot of work. To do so, adtech startups will want major revenue if they’re going to jump through the hurdles to pitch beacon proposals for agencies.


In closing, true path-to-purchase measurement and beacons is coming, but right now the data and installation points haven’t been pulled together easily enough under a standard platform.

Ben Roodman

Benjamin Roodman
Senior Contributing Editor
Benjamin Roodman is an advocate for getting to the truth of what converts in mobile. Well versed in mobile advertising platforms with a notable aptitude and passion for analytics, he's currently putting deals together as head of partnerships at a mobile data startup. Benjamin has previously held Business Development positions at AOL Advertising and helped establish several funded location-based consumer startups.
Follow me on twitter @BRoodman

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