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Back to bluetooth with beacon technology

Bluetooth reminds me of my first days with mobile, being in college and sending friends silly pictures and videos. But now it seems oldschool considering I have a constant internet connection and there’s wifi everywhere. However, marketers take note: bluetooth is back and is being used to send targeted real-time marketing messages to customers. But it's got a new name: beacon technology.

James Berry, director of ecommerce at Collinson Latitude, explained to me that beacon technology is already being used in the States. In department stores people are shopping with their phones out and receiving messages about various promotions in the store, triggered when the customer walks past a particular area/item.

Berry noted Apple’s lack of participation in NFC but its presence in the beacon technology field; iBeacon was built in to iOS7.

According to research from eDigitalResearch almost half (45 per cent) of smartphone owners would be ‘very willing’ or ‘somewhat willing’ for retailers to send messages to their smartphone. But is the opportunity limited to retailers? Even in its current early stage of adoption, apparently not. Good news for B2B marketers then. Virgin Atlantic is trialing Apple’s iBeacons at Heathrow airport. The airline is using the technology for customer engagement and personalisation.

James Shanahan, Virgin's head of ebusiness development, was quoted as saying: "The beacons are very good at providing us with information on who you are and where you are so one of the things we are looking to do is, on arrival to the clubhouse, we can greet you by name and because we know who you are we know what your favourite cocktail is and we can have one waiting at the bar as you walk on in."

Berry is also of the opinion B2B marketers should be using the technology for personalisation. He said: “If you want to improve customer loyalty with your brand, embrace technology that helps you deliver a more tailored and positive customer experience. Customers are craving a more social, local and mobile customer experience, so regardless of what industry you are in, you must be aware of technology like beacons that help deliver a more positive and tailored experience for your end user.”

As with a lot of new technologies and trends, the benefits for B2C marketing are more obvious. However, I think in this current age of personalisation and mobile there are opportunities to be had for B2B.