Beacons are Not For Spamming Customers

There seems to be a misunderstanding, brought on by over-sold and poor marketing material from some companies, that beacons are great for sending customers unsolicited marketing messages. This isn’t so.

One of the issues with using beacons for sending unsolicited messages is that it requires opt-in through the installation of an app (or for Eddystone, enabling in Chrome) and enabling of Bluetooth and Location. This is a huge barrier if you are considering users who are ambivalent about using specific apps and beacons.

eMarketer wrote only today

“But perhaps retailers are no longer enthusiastic about beacons because consumer interest has proved low. Epsilon found in 2015 that although 30% of smartphone owners said in-store beacons sounded interesting enough to look into more, 37% of respondents said they weren’t interested in beacons”

The same goes for Eddystone beacons advertising URLs. Here’s the official word, from Twitter on the Physical Web:


The Physical Web Introduction says:

A core principle of this system is no proactive notifications. The user will only see a list of nearby devices when they ask. If your phone were to be buzzing constantly as you walked through the mall, it would be very frustrating. Push notifications in general are too easily abused. Of course, the user can opt-in to notifications, we are just saying that by default, the user must ask to see anything nearby.

In addition, we only scan when the screen is on: there is no scanning that goes on when the phone is in your pocket. This is consistent with our ‘no interruptions’ goal but it also has a large positive impact on power usage. Using this app should have very little impact on your phone’s battery life.

It’s important to implement ‘want-in’ rather than ‘opt-in’ scenarios. For example, in the above eMarketing quote, Epsilon’s respondents might not be interested in beacons but they might be interested in or even want to seek out an app or run Chrome to get a URL if there’s some incentive, utility or reward. For example, in retail, you might put beacons near ‘treasure hunt’ items that are an exceptionally low price. Along the way, you can then add your marketing messages and build on the ‘want-in’. Beacons are not for lazy spamming of customers because it won’t work for the majority of consumers. Instead, look for new scenarios that are ‘want-in’ that usually require additional pre-marketing.

We believe the best and more interesting opportunities are actually for usecases for beacons that are not retail marketing related.