Blog Innovation

Beyond Marketing: How Beacons Can Be Used to Solve Problems

Danielle Long

  • Reading Time  Min Read
  • Publish Date July 6, 2016

Location-based marketing is a strategy that’s quickly being adopted across all industries, and beacons are at the forefront of this revolution. Thanks to decreased hardware costs and the proliferation of smartphones, these low-cost, Bluetooth-driven sensors are enabling brands to make meaningful connections with consumers in real time.

Starbucks, for example, installed beacons outside several stores that prompt customers to place their orders before they enter the establishment, reducing long lines and inconvenient wait times. And the world-champion Cleveland Cavaliers currently use beacons in Quicken Loans Arena to push videos and other content to fans’ phones based on where they’re seated.

Most commonly, beacons are used by retailers to increase on-premise sales, helping them track consumer flow data and offer relevant guidance or promotions to shoppers’ mobile devices as they navigate a store. But we at Skookum see beacons as much more than just sales boosters; they’re also powerful problem solvers.

Here are three creative places we’ve used beacon technology to overcome pain points:

1. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

It’s tough for age-old institutions to stay relevant in modern times — and this is especially true for libraries. When your clientele has the ability to download thousands of books with a single click from the comfort of their own homes, you have to find ways to appeal to their digital desires.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library contacted Skookum to address this very conundrum, and we developed a mobile app for the organization that uses beacons to enhance its digital presence.

First, we simplified the checkout process by creating digital library cards. Then, we installed iBeacons near the checkout desks that pushed a notification to patrons within range to urge them to use a mobile checkout feature. Now, customers no longer need to fumble through their wallets with one hand while balancing stacks of reading materials in the other.

Our second goal was to use beacons to highlight the library’s lesser-known offerings — specifically, its expansive list of digital services. In addition to its physical book collection, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library provides free access to audiobooks, music, online newsstands, and other types of content. We installed beacons in these lesser-utilized areas of the library and programmed them to ping patrons’ phones whenever they came within range, thus notifying them of their existence.

2. High Point Market 

If you’ve ever been to a modern-day trade show, you know how overwhelmingly huge they can be. Rows upon rows of vendors spread throughout multiple buildings present a serious navigational challenge for attendees — and High Point Market (HPM), the largest home furnishing trade show in the world, came to Skookum searching to alleviate this pain point.

To simplify the HPM visitor experience, we created MyMarket, a beacon-driven wayfinding app that functions similarly to Google Maps, but for the indoors. Users can input the specific vendors, lectures, or events they want to attend, and the app then provides real-time turn-by-turn directions that guide them to their destination along the most efficient route. Along the way, it points out and suggests similar vendors and events they might be interested in checking out.

This app makes life easier for all involved parties. First-time attendees are able to better negotiate the grounds and organize their days, veteran attendees are able to easily locate and find their favorite vendors from last year’s show (and discover new ones along the way), and the vendors themselves see higher levels of traffic and audience engagement.

As a whole, beacons help HPM create a more seamless guest experience that boosts the return rate for future events and lowers the cost of acquiring new attendees.

3. Our Charlotte Office

We at Skookum don’t just use beacons to help our clients; we use them to help ourselves. We recently renovated our Charlotte office’s lobby, and part of the process involved buying sophisticated new doors, changing the locks, and installing a robust security system.

Unfortunately, this complex new entryway came with a learning curve. Each and every employee was going to require a training session on gaining access to the office, which was far from an ideal scenario. We instead leveraged our collective brainpower to come up with a more efficient and secure — but less burdensome — way to get into the building.

We quickly decided that building a beacon-driven mobile app was the smartest and least time-consuming option. We installed Estimote beacons and used Raspberry Pi to create a platform that automatically unlocks our office doors as soon as our elevator doors open. Authorized users don’t need to take out their phones or open their apps; the beacons automatically detect when they’re in range and grants them access.

No additional training was required. All our co-workers had to do was install an app on their smartphones.

As these cases illustrate, proximity marketing in a retail setting is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to beacon technology. The future of user experience design lies in using beacons to solve problems and make life easier for clients — and yourself.

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