Bluetooth beacons have made a lot of headlines since Apple introduced the iBeacon late last year. Subsequently, the move towards Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) has increased with a number of major retailers such as John Lewis and Tesco as well as airlines, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic, recently launching trials using beacons.

The growing confidence in the technology is further highlighted by recent research from ABI, which predicted that the number of BLE devices is set to reach 60 million by 2019.

With this in mind, marketers, retailers and brands have a great opportunity to use this technology to engage with consumers on mobile devices – which they never leave home without. Most of the trials which have been launched so far use BLE technology on its own.

However, to maximise the potential that beacons offer, brands should combine them with other mobile proximity technologies such as NFC. The two technologies are complementary, acting as a powerful engagement tool when used together. The combination of these technologies will enable retailers and marketers to; provide incentives, personalise offers, reward loyal consumers, analyse results, and transform the overall shopping experience.

Let’s take a look at how it can transform the consumer journey.

Brands can include an NFC tag on a special offer at a bus stop or in a magazine, incentivising consumers to download their app. Once the application is on the handset, BLE beacons located in a store will activate the app and may display an appropriate offer on a smartphone, prompting the user to cash in their coupon when in the close proximity of a store.

Marketers also need to make sure they are using beacons in the right way to build confidence in the technology, especially while it is in its infancy. Many of the brands that are using the technology are doing so as pilots and these need to mature into programmes of activity to build consumer awareness and confidence.

The industry also needs to make sure it is not spamming people, as this will either result in consumers deleting specific applications off their phones, or worse still, turning their Bluetooth capabilities off, which will render the technology useless.

A good starting point would be to ask consumers questions about how they like to be marketed to when they are at the download the app stage. By using this information, brands can better tailor their offers, making them relevant and linked to consumers’ wants and needs to build engagement and drive sales.

The development and increasing popularity of Bluetooth beacons combined with the ubiquitous use of smartphones has provided retailers and marketers with a great opportunity to build loyalty with their consumers. By combining beacons with NFC and engaging with consumers in the right way, brands can develop a new way to market and increase revenue.

Miles Quitmann

Miles Quitmann


Miles Quitmann is CCO at Proxama.