Using Beacons to Recognize and Understand Small Business Customers

This article was originally published on the NextWaveSMB blog, which provides small- and medium-sized businesses with strategic insights and intelligence about the technologies and marketing trends that will give them a competitive advantage. NextWaveSMB is brought to you by Booker.


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

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

Related: Customer Loyalty Programs: Why Loyalty Programs Are Better than Coupons

All these activities are taken to a new level with the emergence of wireless beacons. Beacons can recognize customers who 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 follow up 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 their 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, or 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 will 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.