Beacons: Despite tech advances consumer knowledge is needed

By Dominique Fyson – Strategy Account Director
Beacons – breakthrough technology that will change OOH, or over rated and destined to fail before the end of 2017?
If you asked me what the most talked about ‘new tech trend’ of 2016 was then it would definitely be the beacon. Whether it be an iBeacon or Google’s Eddystone, I don’t think a week has gone past where someone hasn’t asked me my opinion on Beacons, or where a client is interested in how this tech can enhance their campaigns. However even with this ground swell around Beacons, and numerous free trials offered by media owners, we are yet to execute a campaign using Beacons this year.
With the wide world of Beacons on my mind, I was really interested to attend MediaTel’s event ‘Beacons: The perfect marriage of mobile and OOH’ on Monday 12th September to get a view on how others in the industry saw this tech moving forward.
What did I come away with? It seems the industry is really jumping on board and committing heavy investment to rolling Beacons out across different OOH environments. In fact many media owners are leading the charge with Primesight, Exterion, Ubiquitous, Mobile Media and Airport media (powered by beacon company Proxama) partnering together.
This partnership launched Presenz at the event, a network aimed at standardising the use of Beacon technology and building the offering across the industry. Media owner partnerships like this are not an everyday occurrence. This partnership shows to me just how much they believe in Beacons and the service they can offer to clients.
Alongside this development Proxama announced that Google have named them as one of only two accredited companies worldwide to work with them in the roll out of Eddystone. We can only assume that this will solidify Proxama as the front running company for this technology moving forward into 2017.
So what does this actually mean for Posterscope and the rest of the OOH industry? Well for one, the technology is building in scale, and scalability is a big factor in the success of a technology. This has been demonstrated with Skyscanner’s current beacon test which covers the London bus network, the Glasgow subway, cinema foyers, branded taxis, and Gatwick airport.
Secondly there are companies such as Neustar, a data analytics company based in the US, which have started creating data management platforms specifically for beacons and are heavily investing into research and analytics to measure their success. This is interesting as econometrics is an area that is heavily influenced by current buying models and posting cycles in OOH and companies such as Neustar might be able to close some of these gaps.
Lastly we were introduced to a company called Unacast who believe that hyper-location and context will be the new ‘mobile’ in global marketing. They claim to be the world’s biggest proximity platform and are building a database where agencies and brands can go and research different proximity companies around the globe and examine the work they do. They currently have 342 members across 46 countries, no small feat in this newly developing area.
Unacast also see the importance in linking the physical and digital realm and have launched a product called uRetarget. This product allows you to digitally retarget customers based on their physical behaviour in the real world, something that is currently lacking in both beacon and online offerings. This will allow clients to finally close the customer loop and could be invaluable to driving customers back into store, with measurement to prove it.
I walked out of the conference feeling quite optimistic, although I still think the technology has a little way to go before we will be rolling out multiple beacon campaigns. The technology definitely has potential and opportunity for clients, whether they have an app or want to take advantage of Eddystone through Chrome. However consumers need to be educated and have the knowledge that beacons are in the physical world around them and know how they can interact with them through their smart phone notifications. If we manage to do that, as well as making the consumer experience clunk-free, then they definitely could be here to stay in the OOH environment.