Beacon technology has become one of the hottest trends in event marketing. After driving $4 billion worth of sales in 2015, beacons are expected to generate ten times more revenue in 2016 and 85 percent of retailers will use them, according to Business Insider. In addition to retail, ABI Research expects festivals, sporting events and entertainment venues to make increasing use of beacons in 2016. Here are some ways businesses are using beacons to boost their event marketing.
Streamlining Event Logistics
Beacons burst onto the event marketing scene at the 2014 SXSW festival, which featured Apple’s iBeacon as its official mobile app. The iBeacon uses Bluetooth Low Energy signals to allow beacon networks to pinpoint the location of mobile device users and send them messages. When a user with the correct app installed enters the range of the beacon’s signal, the user’s device detects the signal. The app transmits the user’s location to the beacon network via Wi-Fi or the customer’s cellular data network. The beacon network can then send messages to the user’s mobile device.
To promote the iBeacon, SXSW organizers set up beacons around the registration area and the Austin Convention center. Users who downloaded the official SXSW app could then receive location-relevant notifications, such as Registration QuickCodes. SXSW showed that beacons can assist in streamlining event logistics, help event organizers manage crowd control and provide attendees with customer service information.
Notifying Event Participants
Users attending SXSW festival sessions also received welcome messages. While event organizers restricted their communications to welcome and thank-you messages so they didn’t annoy participants, beacons are useful for sending participants start-time reminders, event updates and special offers from vendors.
Promoting Event Participation
SXSW’s welcome messages included invitations to participants to join in-app discussions. This shows how beacons can be used to promote attendee participation in events. With standard beacon technology, participation is dependent on the beacon owner’s Wi-Fi network or the user’s data network; however, with newer Bluetooth 4.1 technology installed on devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, event organizers can set up mesh beacons that connect the beacon networks to the cloud. This vastly expands the range of participatory possibilities. For example, participants can now interact with event organizers and each other through apps that use the cloud, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Building Brand Engagement
By promoting event participation, beacon apps can build brand awareness and engagement. Apple used SXSW for brand engagement by providing the iBeacon app and by sponsoring the event as its official mobile app. Sponsoring an event beacon app or using a beacon to alert event participants to an app at your brand’s booth are both ways that brands can use beacons for mobile event marketing.
Beacons also make it easier for event participants to network with each other. Information from beacon networks show event participants who else is present at an event and what their social media contact information is. Beacon-based information can even provide a real-time video or map of other participants’ current locations. Eventbase co-founder Jeff Sinclair suggests combining beacon apps with LinkedIn integration for optimized networking support.