Beacons have been dismissed by some as having had their moment. Despite a large number of retail-related announcements, relatively few consumers (to their knowledge) have experienced proximity based marketing or in-store notifications from beacons.
Despite the slower adoption and failure to live up to the hype cycle, beacons and the broader category of “proximity sensors” are gaining momentum. Unacast’s Q2 Proxbook Report found significant adoption of beacons among North American sports teams and stadiums; 93 percent of Major League Baseball stadiums are using them currently. The new Q3 report focuses on beacon/sensor adoption in airports and transit systems around the world.
Nearly 90 of airports globally “are undertaking either a commercial deployment or a trial project related to proximity sensors,” says the Unacast report. In the US, 35 percent of the top 20 airports have deployed beacons. Those include San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, New Jersey, Miami, Dallas and Orlando.
The report contains a variety of interesting case studies, illustrating current deployments and opportunities. Real-time travel updates, contextual advertising and increased revenue generation are among the use cases presented. For example, survey data indicate that commuters in the New York MTA system would pay a small premium to use their phones and avoid paper tickets. That could result in annual revenue increases of more than $350 million. This says nothing about location-based or contextual notifications and ads.
One of the more interesting case studies in the report involves using loyalty rewards to manage commute traffic volumes in the Netherlands. Public transit operator Syntus partnered with beacon provider Kontakt.io to deploy beacons along routes throughout the country. There were a variety of use cases for the beacon network, including local offers during the commute. Beyond this, however, commuters were were offered points to travel outside of peak rush hour times, helping reduce congestion and pressure on the system. The deployment also captured valuable data on commuter travel patterns.
In the above example, the experience was delivered via transit app. And while many regular commuters have transit apps on their smartphones (for ticketing, etc.), most consumers won’t have an airport app, though they may have an airline app. This app adoption issue complicates proximity marketing or notifications somewhat. However there are other sensor technologies, such as WiFi, that don’t require apps and can compensate for or complement beacons.
In addition, Google’s Eddystone beacons can deliver notifications without a specialized app (via the Chrome Browser). Mobile wallets can be used in place of specific apps. App networks can also be developed to compensate for limited or missing app downloads. So there are a variety of ways to deliver proximity experiences and advertising to smartphone owners without a specific app.
According to Unacast, there were nearly 12 million location-based sensors deployed globally by its member companies in Q3, The breakdown was as follows: 7 million beacons, 2 million NFC sensors and just under 3 million WiFi access points. Impressively the aggregate number of proximity sensors grew 42 percent sequentially. The company has also seen growth in proximity ad networks, which are ultimately a version of out-of-home advertising.
So while beacons may be rolling out more slowly than anticipated, they are part of a larger technology cluster and trend that is definitely gaining momentum.