Beacons are all the rage, and for good reason. The small Bluetooth wireless transmitters that hide inconspicuously on doorways, shelves, checkout counters and more have the opportunity to completely revolutionize the consumer experience. Beacons bridge consumers’ digital and physical worlds like never before — and can facilitate rich, real-time, highly personalized interactions.
The biggest adopters to date have been retailers, which makes sense. They are the ones with physical locations — they own the shelves — so of course they should be the facilitators of beacon-enabled experiences, right? Not necessarily.
CPG companies can and should create their own beacon initiatives as an integral part of their larger omni-channel marketing programs. Imagine this: A health-conscious customer is standing in the vitamin aisle, looking for a daily supplement for her child. Instead of having to pull out her phone to search for reviews and information on your brand, a beacon pushes her the latest Consumer Reports recommendation. She will look for information herself — so a brand should streamline this process, providing the content that will make it easier for her to make her decision. Maybe throw in a coupon to sweeten the deal.
Contrary to popular belief, beacons don’t just work when a person has a company’s app on their phone. If a person has added an offer or saved a loyalty card to Passbook, a beacon will can also trigger an interaction.
As CPG companies start considering beacon programs in 2014 and beyond, they need to keep in mind the pillars below to ensure success.
Personalization and contextualization drive success. What will be the downfall for many companies in their beacon programs will be the lack of relevance to an individual. Every time a consumer is pinged by a beacon, a brand is encroaching in their personal space. If they are bombarded with irrelevant information, they will grow increasingly frustrated and disenchanted with your brand’s spam.
Reminding someone to buy detergent every time they’re shopping is not the way to engage with consumers. However, by integrating all customer data into a single viewpoint, such as buying history, loyalty program info, offer preferences and redemptions, etc. a brand could know that a specific consumer purchases Tide once every six weeks. A reminder message or offer would therefore only trigger when they are likely to be running low, subtly encouraging the sale when it’s relevant.
CPG companies also must tap into context signals beyond the precise location that beacons provide such as weather, traffic and environmental conditions to make every interaction more relevant. For example, an OTC allergy brand can alert a consumer to the unusually high pollen counts in the forecast for the weekend, prompting them to buy today.
Beyond offers, consumers want information. Beacons should not just be used to disseminate offers when someone if standing on the shelf. Rich media with videos, pictures, recipes, tips and other motivating content should be unlocked as consumers pass by. A pasta brand, for instance, could send the working mother a quick and easy menu for tonight’s dinner with a roadmap to where she can find the other ingredients in the store. Voila, dinner is decided.
Work in tandem with retailers. Partnering with retailers is the only way that CPG companies will run successful beacon programs in-store, as a retailer’s permission would be to be granted for a CPG brand to include the small devices on shelf and end-of-row displays or other marketing materials used.
As a consumer walks around a store, if she gets alerts from the retailer as well as various brands, it would be a pretty unpleasant experience, getting pinged every time she turns around. If a retailer has its own beacon program, CPG companies will need to ensure programs compliment each other, and multiple beacon messages are not on the same aisle, or section of the store. This may turn into a situation where brands purchase the rights to own beacons in a specific area for a time period – where the air space goes to the highest bidder.
On the other hand, many of the larger retailers are still hesitant about implementing their own programs and would likely welcome the opportunity to explore how beacons perform without taking on all of the risk. In this case, retailers would likely ask for some high-level reports on program success.
There is a great opportunity for CPG companies to engage with their consumers in highly motivating, personalized ways using beacons. CPG companies are in a sweet spot for beacon success with sweeping cohorts of loyal customers that would welcome the opportunity for rich, more engaging, contextual real-time experiences, content and offers. More than just building customer relationships, CPG brands can also leverage mobile and beacons to sign up customers for regular subscriptions delivered via a retailer of choice.
The remainder of this year and throughout the first few months of 2015, we will see CPG companies and retailers work through the growing pains and start implementing some really amazing experiences.