TE2’s Experience Studio platform is used to deliver personalized experiences at just the right moment in a guest’s journey. When working with new customers, I’m often asked “What determines that ‘right’ moment?”. In many cases it is a guest’s location; for example, the moment they enter a store or venture near a key landmark.
To determine a guest’s location, TE2 uses the real-time GPS coordinates of their mobile devices, supplemented with data from beacons for hyper-local marketing inside of customer venues. Beacons are a simple yet powerful IoT technology whose popularity has grown exponentially in recent years with the rise of location-based marketing.
Since I’m frequently asked about the beacons we used for hyper-local marketing, here are answers to the most common questions heard during TE2’s deployment process.
1. How do they work?
Beacons are small Bluetooth radio transmitters that signal other devices within a set radius. We install them throughout our customer venues, on the grounds of theme parks, hotels and resorts. We configure them to help identify mobile devices that have our customers’ apps installed.
Beacons themselves do not trigger the delivery of content from our platform. Beacons emit signals that can be detected by mobile devices. Whenever a user’s mobile device receives a beacon signal, the device then notifies our platform that it is near a beacon. Our platform then determines each user device’s eligibility for scheduled experiences in that area and, if it is eligible for a scheduled experience, it is delivered by our platform.
2. What do they look like?
Beacons come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, colors and signal strengths, and cover a wide range of applications. In retail stores, for example, small adhesive sticker beacons are used to detect which users have been within foot or two of a particular product. Since TE2s customers have large outdoor venues and wish to detect devices within a 50 to 200 foot radius, we use longer-lasting beacons with more power. The ones we use look like this and measure just a few inches in diameter. You can see they are much smaller than an average mobile device.
However, we usually place them into a 3” x 3” weatherproof box, to shelter them from the elements. The weatherproof box looks like this:
3. How do you install them?
We place them into the grey waterproof box shown above, which is easily installed with two small screws and a drill. Installation typically takes less than 5 minutes per beacon. There are some limitations for the type of material they can be installed on; for example, we avoid installing them on metal because it can attenuate a beacon’s signal, on marble because signals do not pass through it, and or near speakers or other electronics due to interference. After installation, you can paint over the weatherproof box without affecting the signal.
4. Will they work with all user devices?
To be detected by a beacon, devices must be Bluetooth-enabled and have their Bluetooth function turned on. For beacons to be used as part of your experience management program leveraging TE2’s platform, users also must have your app.
5. On average, what percentage of people have Bluetooth enabled?
Across our customer venues, we find that an average of 60% of app users have Bluetooth enabled. The apps we build prompt users to enable Bluetooth if they haven’t already, and we encourage app marketing materials to include prompts as well.
6. Do they need to be wired?
Beacons are battery-powered, and do not need electricity, wifi or wiring of any kind.
7. How long do they last?
We expect our beacons to last several years, and their exact lifespan depends on how they are used. Those broadcasting to a larger area will have a shorter lifespan. We monitor beacon performance, and when we see signs of decline we replace them. As beacon technology improves, their lifespan gets even longer.
8. Where should we put them?
TE2 conducts a thorough inspection of our customer venues to understand the opportunities for contextual content to support guest experiences or operational goals. This inspection leads to our recommendation for your beacon locations. For example, if your venue has a need to reach guests with a special offer while they are inside a theater, then you have a good reason to place a beacon inside that theater. We also observe how guests are traveling through your venue and place beacons in choke points, and congregation and dwelling spots.
9. How strong are they?
Signal strength is adjustable. In general, we configure beacons between a 50 and 100 foot radius. For larger areas, we may configure two or more beacons to work together.
10. I’d like to deliver content to guests when they enter or exit a particular location. Is this a good use of beacons?
While beacons can tell us if a user device is in proximity, they cannot detect the direction in which they are traveling. A user may be nearing a location, or traveling out of the location, or just passing by close enough that the beacon detects their mobile device; to the beacon, it is all the same. In these cases, we may identify guests entering or exiting a location using customer data or time of day; for example, scheduling content delivery at the time guests are likely to be arriving at, not departing from, a theater for a show or concert.
While small and simple, beacons are powerful tools that help you leverage a guest’s location to personalize their experiences. With a good understanding of beacons and how they work, you will be better prepared to succeed in your location-based messaging plan.
Learn more about TE2’s Experience Marketing Solutions.
Danielle Chapman is TE2’s Product Evangelist. Beacon photo credit Bill Kunneke, TE2 Solutions Engineer.