Sending the Right Signals: Beacons


Robert Haslam, PR Manager at Mubaloo Limited & MiBeacons

It’s been a year now since beacons rose to prominence in the mobile space, following Apple’s system wide support for iBeacons in iOS 7. With Google bringing deeper BLE support with Android L, the role of beacons for connecting real world objects with mobile devices will only grow.

Beacons on Android

Already, the majority of trials or implementations have focused on the retail sector, delivering marketing messages to consumers, when they are in the right proximity of objects. For example, inMarket’s push notifications have led to interactions with advertised products increase by 19x and app usage increase by 16.5x. Whilst this is encouraging, there is a danger that consumers will grow tired of constant notifications, unless there is enough of a value exchange.

The Minority Effect

Anyone who has seen the Minority Report will be familiar with a world where consumers receive targeted adverts, based on exactly who they are. What they will have also is the amount of noise that comes with constant alerts.

Noise has always been an issue when it comes to advertising. We have become very good at tuning out adverts or marketing, which is part of the reason shiny new channels tend to perform well. People are curious creatures, the more familiar we become with a certain medium, the more we tune it out until something new comes along.

Something of Value

When it comes to Beacons, the most successful deployments will be ones where apps are bought to the surface at the right time. In a retail environment, this will be when the user goes to get their phone out and the notification comes up, when they turn their screen on. By doing it in this way, the beacon is providing what the user needs when they need it, rather than annoying the user with notifications.

Beacons enable the right content to be delivered at the right time. This is harder to achieve than it sounds, especially if a company is trying to interrupt a user with a notification. The best way of delivering value to the target end user is to provide them with what they need, in the right place for it. This can be achieved through contextual app design, where the app can navigate to the right place. For users who have an online account for a retailer or brand, it can also be achieved by matching online behaviour with real world activity. This could take the form of adding a ‘show me in-store’ button to online services, which can then notify the user where a certain product is when they enter a store or venue.

Beacon Zones

When beacons eventually get integrated into outdoor advertising, it will be possible to compliment ads, rather than compete with them. One possible way of doing this is to use in-app advertising, or potentially web advertising to match ads in the device with ads in the nearby vicinity. An example of this might be that a user on the underground is stood near a poster and using an app, a beacon placed in the ad could trigger the in-device ad to show a matching, contextual ad on the device. By doing this, advertisers would be able to bridge the gap between online and offline advertising; and find out true metrics about their outdoor ad campaigns.


One of the big challenges for beacon deployments will be the lack of trust users have if they think they are being tracked too much. There is a fine line with beacon deployments between tracking and sending the right type of messages. Tracking helps to deliver the right messages based on whether the same device has entered a beacon zone before. It also means that the in-app and in-venue experience is built on who the user is, making it more personalised. The more personalised an experience becomes the bigger the risk that consumers will feel like brands are tracking them too much which could lead to users turning off Bluetooth or disabling beacon tracking.

This means that users need to have the option to opt-in to receive the enhanced experience and understand how their information will be used, and whether they can be personally identified or not. Beacons have a huge amount of potential, but like with anything to do with mobile, the intimacy of the devices means that companies, and developers creating apps have to put the user first and think about the impact negative experiences could have on the market.

Written by
Robert Haslam
PR Manager at Mubaloo Limited & MiBeacons

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