In 1994, a start-up company named Netscape changed the course of history. The Netscape browser was the first internet browser to be made widely available to the public. Netscape enjoyed the largest IPO in U.S. history to that date.
“The Netscape browser changed everything because there was a “perfect storm” of technologies at that time”, says marketing expert John Zehr. “Computers had become commonplace, everyone had a telephone line, and modems were widely available. All people needed was the software to surf the web. When that happened, the Internet as we now know it was born.”
According to Zehr, the “Next Big Thing” in digital technology is called “beacons”.
“Beacons are business card-sized, battery-powered devices that broadcast a sales or informational message in a very small radius. They allow a business or organization to connect with their audience through their smartphone”, says Zehr. “Like the Netscape browser, a perfect storm is brewing for beacon technology. They’re inexpensive, everyone wants to save money, and most of us own a smartphone.”
According to www.economist.com, about half the adult population owns a smartphone; by 2020, 80% will. Smartphones have also penetrated every aspect of daily life. The average American is buried in one for over two hours every day. Indeed, nearly 80% of smartphone-owners check messages, news or other services within 15 minutes of getting up. About 10% admit to having used the gadget during sex.
“Beacons bridge the gap between the big, impersonal Internet and the individual. They allow a business to create a more personal relationship with their customer or client”, says Zehr.
Here’s an example of what a beacon can do for a small business: as a diner enters Joe’s Eatery, he gets a message on his smartphone. The message welcomes him and thanks him for choosing Joe’s. He clicks a link to read about the daily specials and is redirected to a web page with a brief video of Joe describing his specials, how fresh the ingredients are, and how they’re prepared.
As he finishes his meal, the diner gets another message that invites him to join Joe’s Frequent Diner’s Club. He clicks the button and the next time he visits Joe’s, he’s greeted by name (Joe gets a message on his smartphone that the guest is there again, along with the guest’s photo!) and Joe asks if he’d like the veal picatta again (Joe recorded his previous meal choice in his beacon app), or if he’d rather have for some fresh salmon. He enjoys the fish and as he pays, the cashier taps his phone to record the visit. The customer is pleased because the next time he eats at Joe’s he’ll get a free dessert. Joe is happy because he’s assured the diner will return.
Retailers and merchants are proving to be the fastest to adopt beacon marketing practices. “Harvard Business Review published an article in 2014 that said that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. They cited research that shows increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.”
“Beacons will be everywhere in just a few years”, says Zehr. “Museums will use beacons to share details about each exhibit. Schools will use beacons to guide you to your classroom and notify you if bad weather has forced a closure. Merchants will use beacons to create more loyalty and affinity with their customers. It’s the ultimate customer service and retention technology.”
“Small business owners are very excited about beacons because they can make more money without spending an arm and a leg to find new customers”, says Zehr. “When they provide better, more personalized service, their customers want to do more business with them. That’s what beacons help them do. And since it’s all digital and automated, it’s easy for the business owner to implement.”
“Beacons aren’t some far-off fantasy”, claims Zehr. “Entrepreneurs smell blood and they’re creating some very exciting ways to capitalize on the beacon trend.”
For more information on beacons and beacon marketing, visit Zehr’s website, www.BeaconTrends.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (601) 624-3456.