How Beacon Technology Can Turbocharge UGC

What a time to be alive! If a digitally-connected ice cube can now alert your bartender that you need a refill and provide your precise location for faster service, imagine the potential for industries around the world. Indeed, Martini’s “smart cubes” are just one of many extraordinary implementations of beacon technology.

In fact, nearly 15 million low-energy Bluetooth transmitters operate globally. Think of them as miniature lighthouses sending signals into the sea. Broadcasting unique identifiers to connected devices nearby, proximity sensors help brands deliver timely, tailored content to consumers. The idea is proving hugely successful, with 500 million beacons expected to be deployed by 2021.

Why the sudden passion? Technology that makes life better for brands and consumers, connecting the dots between online activity and on-site behavior, is always a hit. It’s the sort of thing that sparks a marketer’s imagination and, quite frankly, has our TwineSocial engineers giddy over the possibilities, too.

Currently, most brands use beacons to push information. For example, fast food chain McDonald’s often delivers enticing mobile coupons to customers passing nearby. High-end retailer Neiman Marcus was pinging shoppers with information on trunk shows, book signings, and other events happening in-store. Recently, Macy’s hosted a beacon-triggered “Black Friday Walk In and Win” mobile app game, encouraging shoppers to engage in a digital experience and win up to $1 million in prizes. Guests of Starwood Hotels & Resorts were surprised to be greeted by name, invited to skip the check-in process, and unlock their hotel room door with their smartphone, all thanks to beacon technology.

This got us thinking. Beacon technology seeks to reach consumers in the moment, and social media is about sharing the moments. What if more brands combined these two amazing tools to create a more integrated experience? Since proximity sensors are already designed to work in conjunction with mobile apps, and it’s estimated that two-thirds of consumers shop in-store with smartphones, plugging into social seems only natural.

A few excellent examples do exist. Brand managers at multinational lifestyle brand Urban Outfitters used beacons to drive shoppers to social media and ultimately advertise for the brand. “When smartphone-wielding shoppers first enter the store, a push notification prompts users to check-in via social media to unlock an offer. Then in the fitting room, beacons are being used to churn out user-generated content about products,” AdWeek reports. “Shoppers are prompted to take selfies and post them to Instagram with the hashtag #UOonYou for a chance to be featured on Urban Outfitters' website.”

Platforms like TwineSocial make it possible for brands to route that kind of rich UGC into compelling e-commerce displays and live social walls. We’ve written in the past on the electrifying results of social content in marketing, and since beacon technology can help brands generate more UGC, we are big fans.

Of course, as with any new technology, there are a few challenges to implementation. In order to receive the localized pings, visitors do need to authorize communication. Generally, this occurs through an app download. Smartphones must also be Bluetooth enabled, with Location Services activated, and within beacon range. The good news is that 70 percent of US shoppers aren’t ruling it out – as long as they receive some benefit. According to BI Intelligence, discounts, loyalty rewards, and personalized recommendations are high on the list. Since these are perks many businesses are already happy to offer, we’d call that a win-win.

For more ideas on how to promote shared enthusiasm around an idea, product, or community, check out our solutions gallery. Then, kick off your own success story with a free 7-day trial of TwineSocial. Let us know how we can help!

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