How and why to prepare for Google Beacons-powered marketing

We are about to enter the new era of proximity marketing. Are you ready to embrace the change?


You have parked your car or exited the public transportation system you use to go to work or shopping. It is relatively early in the morning, but the nearby Starbucks is certainly open. As you get close to that Starbucks location, you receive a familiar "ping" that alerts you to a message. You check your phone, and there is a message from that very Starbucks, offering you a great discount on that latte you normally order when you are in there. Needing a little boost and loving a bargain, you enter Starbucks, show them your discount offer and get that latte.

How did Starbucks know you were there? How did Starbucks know your favorite drink?

It's all about proximity marketing. What is that exactly? The simplest explanation is that a consumer's physical location is "monitored," usually through a branded app they have downloaded. Then, when that individual comes into geographic proximity of your physical business location, they can receive some "push" notifications offering rewards such as special pricing or discounts that are of interest based on their past purchases.

Proximity marketing has been in use by some individual retailers for a few years, but it has not been widely adopted or popular. It is rather like many other newer technologies – they are developed and are launched but, until businesses or consumers begin to see options and benefits, they lie rather dormant.

Enter Google Beacons

One of the things key to Google's success is that it is constantly looking for ways to appeal to retail advertisers. At the end of 2018, the company decided to dispatch beacon devices to advertisers running Google ads with local extensions as part of their Project Beacon.

The purpose? To alert business owners when visitors to their places of business come into close proximity to a product they have been advertising on Google Ads. How can retailer use this information? In several ways:

These beacons can be used in much the same way that Starbucks uses them – pushing out an offer when a customer is looking at a product.

The Google ad can be displayed on the consumer's phone, providing some value propositions.

Business owners can track purchases of items they are advertising through Google and determine the effectiveness of those ads.

By tracking proximity and the busiest times of that proximity, businesses can make decisions about the best times to run Google ads.

Visit Innovation Enterprise's Digital Strategy Innovation Summit in New York on March 26–27 2019

The accompanying Eddystone format

Google also developed a new open-source platform (nicknamed Eddystone) that allows developers to build their own beacons.

Businesses can customize and even add more types of beacons (up to four), which will provide additional interactions with customers. And through Eddystone, businesses do not have to be using Google ads to set up their own beacon platform. An additional extension of this technology is that several businesses can collaborate and use the same beacon.

However, to successfully enable beacon-powered experiences, brands will also have to think more about on-premises hardware. Bluetooth beacons will have to be placed strategically around your premises and fine-tuned for connectivity. To cover large shopping areas, you may also want to invest in Wi-Fi extender technology and products that will help you link all of your devices into a larger local network and create a truly omnichannel customer experience.

Picture the following: you have just check-in to a hotel. One of the first things you do is connecting to a high-speed wireless network (Wi-Fi) and you are prompted to open the hotel's app (Wi-Fi). The app shows you all the activities offered at the hotel. You are also automatically checked-in for lunch at one of the restaurants. To get there the app provides you with indoor navigation (beacons). The waiter greets you with an iPad and automatically records all your personal details (Wi-Fi). After lunch you are not sure what you want to do next. So, you get changed and head to the pool area. On your way there, you receive a quick message saying that the hotel offers a 20% discount today on all spa treatments (beacons). It looks like you have just found your activity for the day!

Preparing for beacon marketing

Whether you decide to use the standard Google Beacon platform or develop/have one developed through Eddystone, you do need to prepare for this new technology. Though it has not been the huge disruption that was predicted several years ago, it is now coming into its own. Earlier issues have been resolved.

While beacon technology is not a magic bullet for your marketing challenges, it is an effective tool that should be added to your overall marketing strategy. As the technology becomes more mainstream, your competitors will be hopping on it and all of the extensions that beacons can offer.

Google is developing some of these extensions. Imagine, for example, a city in which your product may appear in many physical locations, rather than a single store. Your beacons can be utilized in several places at the same time, while other consumer product companies are using that same technology for their products – shared beacon technology, all in the cloud.

You can place beacon technology in any apps that your customers will download. Even if those apps are not currently open, beacon technology allows you to send out push notifications as consumers get physically close to your products. Beacons can also monitor the varying amount of foot traffic in your location to track popular times for your Google Business listing.

As stated, beacons will not bring about a huge, immediate increase in conversions. Over time, however, this will happen. And as the technology itself evolves, as well as your understanding of their current and potential uses, you will want to be ready to embrace them and serve your customers better.

Why data lakes are important for business analytics small

Read next:

Why data lakes are important for business analytics