Using Beacons to Recognize and Understand SMB Customers

April 11, 2016 Peter Krasilovsky

Recognizing and understanding your customers is an important part of generating customer loyalty.  So is marketing to their specific needs. 

Many SMBs have employed tech tools to help with these quests. SMBs can ask users to register at sites, get tracked via cookies or download an app.  In-store,  SMBs can recognize their  customers and act on them with discounts, coupons, perks and recognition via n-store, loyalty clubs, credit card/debit card registration and CRM services .

All these activities are taken to a new level with the emergence of wireless beacons.  These can recognize customers that are in-store and nearby. Yext, a provider of geolocation solutions, believes that beacons will ultimately result in $44 billion in new commerce opportunities.

In terms of physical footprints, beacons are very small and may take many forms. Some are integrated into Point of Sales or loyalty sign on devices – even iPad Minis. Many are bundled with Loyalty or CRM programs. Others are inexpensive stand-alone devices.

When they are installed, beacons can do more than recognize in-store and nearby customers. They can also match customers with their recent purchases and browsing behavior; and enable retailers to followup on social media or email.

Belly, a loyalty provider that works with stores such as 7-11,  is among the companies deploying beacons. It says the beacon program has already had a great impact, expanding the base of customers it tracks by 30%.

The value of the information goes beyond extending Belly's network.  Like many other beacon providers ,  Belly segments the user information based on their behavior. It also tends to provide a follow-up promotion to the customer after the in-store visit via Facebook or email.  Other companies are using their beacon check-in information to retarget ads on other sites, to send follow-up information after meetings.

Many tech early adopters have become very excited about beacons; perhaps, in some cases, prematurely.  This is especially the case for SMBs that  haven't integrated customer analytics into their marketing efforts.  Big box stores, franchises and other large organizations are way ahead in this regard.

Beacons are also not “friction free.” They tend to require more employee training and integration with other marketing efforts and software.   

Over time, however,  the impact of beacons to be very important to SMBs and large businesses alike. We expect to see them  act as a “multiplier” for other channels – i.e. supporting retargeting and coupons - and part of a growing marketing convergence that also includes loyalty programs, payments and other solutions.

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