Last week, Google announced that it will be supporting physical beacons in its Chrome browser for Android. Beacons are now becoming a reality after a long hype period. Retail giant Target rolling them out in 2,000 of its US stores and WPP-owned OOH agency Kinetic partnering with Exterion Media to install beacons across the UK’s transport networks and in major shopping malls.
Details and Implications
Beacons have always appeared to be an attractive way to communicate with consumers via mobile, but the ability to scale beacon solutions has really prevented them from taking off. Most current uses of beacons rely on an Android and/or iOS app detecting them with push notifications turned on and as 85% of consumers tend to only use 5 apps, the experience becomes diluted quickly. However, Google’s next version of Chrome for Android, version 49 (currently in beta) cuts out the need for users to have an app downloaded and for brands to have a high app user base. The new Chrome will be able to alert users to low-energy beacons near to them. The idea is for people to be able walk up to any "smartened" device without having to download an app first.
Google are calling this ‘The Physical Web’, a nod towards the blurring of lines between the physical and digital world. The first time a user comes into contact with a beacon they receive a notification through Chrome asking if they want to enable The Physical Web. If activated, users will then see notifications that list which nearby beacons are available, including URLs to be clicked on to visit a linked webpage. This means consumers can receive information, offers and exclusives from all types of companies when on the move. For example, airlines can send pop-up alerts on departure information, or you could receive a notification from a shop, which now has your size back in stock, or you could receive vouchers when walking past your favourite store.
It’s clear that Google is thinking about how to take beacons to the next level by rolling them into the wider world of smart devices. Google wants to ensure beacons are integrated into the Internet of Things and don’t operate as a standalone entity but rather help facilitate the world of connected devices. Scott Jenson, Google, said: “There will be millions of smart devices in our homes, work, and everywhere in between. Accessing functionality from these devices will be just like using the Web. You wake up, tap, and go.”
Location based signals are playing a pivotal role in connecting the physical and digital world. Location targeting combined with consumer relevancy has never been more important for brands looking to drive consumers to the point of transaction through media. Google’s decision to support beacons with Chrome for Android reemphasises the vital role of proximity marketing. As beacon technology evolves, it’s also important to consider how it can deliver in relation to omnichannel, personalised experiences for consumers.