At Mowingo, we have a non-controversial stance on beacons: they’re an excellent way for retail marketers to engage with customer in-store, over the smartphones they love. We know it, retailers know it.

But, as the benefits of beacons are espoused, and the technology picks up popularity with top retailers, brands are in danger of jumping on board a trend without a plan for how to involve it in their current marketing activities. At best, they think about beacon technology’s potential and experiment in-store, building a list of best practices for their brand. At worst, they use it to alienate the customer with too many messages with too little relevance.

Since we’ve seen some missteps already, we want to broadcast that we’re here to help. We considered the total value proposition of beacon technology in-store, and put together a list of the top four things smart brands remember when they leverage beacons.

(1) Sometimes the best course of action is none at all.

Instead of leveraging beacons to immediately push offers — and prematurely engage customers — you could start by using the beacons to gather customer foot traffic data, and learn which displays people linger on and which they pass by. This gives you a cache of business intelligence data to help direct your future mobile sales and marketing efforts.

For example, you may realize that a display at the front of the store isn’t receiving nearly as much foot traffic as a display near the cash wrap, and can adjust your items accordingly.

(2) Context is everything.

Next, it’s important to remember that when it comes to proximity marketing, context is supreme. Beacons alone aren’t smart, so leveraging CRM data to push relevant offers based on past purchase history is critical to your success.

In addition to incorporating consumers’ personal tastes, past behaviors and purchase histories, you also should take into consideration their in-store foot traffic patterns.

If Julie, a regular customer, enters your department store and the beacon near the entrance registers her presence, but no other beacon throughout the store has registered her after 15 minutes, we know that Julie is lingering near the front section. Based on purchase history and her tastes, we also know that she has a history of purchasing handbags. We can leverage a pre-configured rule in the system to push Julie a message inviting her to find a surprise in the handbag department, thus leading her to a preferred department, and further down the path-to-purchase.

(3) It may not be obvious, but you must secure your beacons.

Beacon security is not something that immediately comes to mind when thinking about implementing beacons, but it should be. As a quick reminder, beacons transmit three pieces of information at a time, a UUID, a Major ID and a Minor ID. The UUID is the unique string of characters that identifies the beacon as a particular brand’s (like Macy’s or KFC), while the Major ID might denote the specific store’s address, and the Minor ID broadcasts the location within the store.

If you have the same UUID for every beacon in every store and you never rotate it, you could be allowing competitors to learn your UUID. Because beacons are constantly transmitting the same information, it’s not that difficult for a competitor to figure out your UUID, and perhaps have a rule on their mobile app that looks for your beacons. Then, a competitor could push offers to a customer when they enter your store.

One solution is to rotate your beacons UUID regularly. Secure beacons prevent your competition from stealing your customer data — and your customer.

(4) Beacon marketing is not email marketing.  

Once you’ve made the decision to incorporate beacons into your mobile engagement strategy, your messaging must leverage the potential of this medium effectively.

Too many retailers are simply using beacons as another channel for the same messaging they use via email, through banners on web sites, and even on social channels. Once you’ve bombarded your customer with the same message of “20% off!” over and over again, when they receive it in-store, it won’t mean anything, and they’ll simply ignore it like other messaging. They won’t miss that you have a sale, but they will avoid any opportunity to interact with you if you keep overwhelming them.

Instead, leverage the data from your customer profiles and combine them with pre-configured rules for beacon engagement to push truly personalized messaging to your customers.

If Robert enters the store and your customer profile indicates he rarely visits your store and your app hasn’t registered a beacon’s presence in two months, you can push a more attractive welcome offer to him to motivate him to purchase today.

Furthermore, should Robert make a purchase, you can send him another notification inviting him to join the loyalty program and receive yet another offer for next weekend. This is a personalized method of communication designed to boost your sales and your customer’s satisfaction.

When used properly, integrating beacons into your overall mobile and omnichannel strategy can produce significantly better sales results. But if misused and treated like any other messaging channel, beacons can backfire and actually detract from your in-store marketing programs.

And that’s it, for now.

Hopefully, these tips can help you avoid some of the pitfalls and put best practices in place. And, as always, should you want to learn more, or hear how you can lean on beacon experts to incorporate beacon marketing into your mobile roadmap, reach out to us here.