Our always on, always connected world has reached a point where there are now 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally. In just five years, nearly 70% of the entire population will be using smartphones — accounting for 80% of all mobile data traffic.
In light of such prodigious statistics, brands are honing in on connected shoppers — those who use their smartphones all day — to stay relevant in the modern age. With 56% of millennials, the most influential consumers in history, confirming that they’re happy to share their personal data in exchange for promotional deals that pertain to their lives and interests, it’s imperative that marketers target these prime consumers through their preferred method of communication: their smartphones. This mobile-focused interaction between brands and consumers is where virtual beacons blaze the way.
What Can Beacons Do?
Through Bluetooth technology, beacons provide brands with a tremendously powerful tool that can deliver real-time, relevant messages to individual customers as they walk around a store. For example, if a customer is entering the electronics section of an outlet, beacons can send a special offer for wireless speakers right to the individual’s smartphone. They also allow companies to track a customer’s journey and dwell times within a retail space, giving businesses unprecedented, valuable insights about their patrons.
Why Virtual Beacons?
Until recently, beacons required time-consuming hardware installation, costly maintenance, and substantial infrastructure. Now, however, proprietary virtual beacons rely on measurements from the accelerometer and magnetometer within a customer’s smartphone itself. Instead of calling for a number of physical beacons that quickly drain battery life (batteries are slated to last two years, but many run dead in less than a month), virtual beacons require nothing more than a floor plan.
Traditional beacons are portable and can be physically positioned within a space. It’s a logistical nightmare, however, when individual beacons across locations need to be rearranged due to floor plan adjustments or changes in campaign strategy. Virtual beacons, on the other hand, create zero infrastructure and, thus, no physical hardware to handle.
Speed & Accuracy
In order for campaigns to be successful, they have to be delivering relevant content to customers in the moment. Physical beacons are often inaccurate up to 10 feet and can present interference issues that jam signals (if, for example, there happens to be a pillar or partition between a beacon and a smartphone). Virtual beacons offer significantly greater accuracy and stability because there are no interference obstacles in transmitting messages to customers.
Whereas traditional beacons demand continuous transmissions back and forth between a server, virtual beacons require far less power. By using only the sensors inside a shopper’s smartphone, they enable computations that are not so power intensive.
iOS and Android Compatible
Physical beacons are designed to garner signals and transmit messages to a specific species of device, which doesn’t incorporate both Android and iOS operations all in one tool. With virtual beacons, retailers no longer have to choose between one or the other, or adding costs by integrating both kinds of beacons into their spaces. Virtual beacons operate across both iOS and Android devices.
With 73% of consumers more likely to purchase from stores that send beacon-triggered content and offers, beacons are providing brands with the ability to truly engage customers and remain relevant through individualized, real-time communication. Without the traditional challenges of implementing physical sensors into campaign strategy, proprietary virtual beacons will roll out the path to powerful customer experiences, ultimately increasing customer engagement and ROI for businesses. As a result, we can expect to see virtual beacons collaborating with industries, from banks to hotels, restaurants, and even hospitals. In a virtual age, the possibilities are endless.
Jess Stephens, is the chief marketing officer for SmartFocus