Beacons, Beacons, Everywhere Beacons

by Net Future Institute on July 31, 2014

By Chuck Martin

Beacons are coming to a store near you, in a big way.

Following the launch of in-store beacons in North American stores of Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay this week comes along some research indicating that this is barely the tip of the beacon iceberg.

By the end of this year, there will be 30,000 active beacons in the U.S., with most (80%) of them in retail stores, according to a new report by Business Insider Intelligence.

Viewed another way, beacons will be in only 2% of all U.S. retail locations, including 8% of the top 100 retailers’ locations, according to data in the Beacon Report: Exclusive Market Forecast and Top Strategies as Retailers Race to Adopt Them.

But that’s before the coming massive beacon onslaught.

With more than 50 suppliers manufacturing beacons, the installed base is projected to grow 287% to 5 million beacons within four years. Four million of those are anticipated to be in use by retailers.

The BI Intelligence report notes that half of the top 100 retailers in the U.S. are testing beacons this year, with a third of them expected to have them deployed in stores by the end of next year.

The BI Intelligence forecast is based on conversations with beacon vendors and retailers about the growth in beacon adoption, estimates from other market research firms and historical data on growth for disruptive in-store technology, of which beacons certain qualify.

One of the current challenges with beacons, which can cost only a few dollars each and can transmit to about 160 feet, is the status of the phones receiving those signals.

While apps in iPhones can be instantly awakened, courtesy of Apple’s iBeacon technology, Android apps have to be running, at least in the background, not a pleasant state for battery usage, though that issue is expected to be resolved in future iterations of Android.

There are about 260 million iOS smartphones and 310 million Android phones in use around the world that are capable of scanning for nearby beacons. By the end of next year, BI Intelligence estimates that number to pass more than a billion.

The beacons will be in stores and mobile shoppers will be equipped to receive signals from those beacons.

The looming issue now is the crafting of messaging by retailers so that what the consumer receives makes their shopping experience better.

Otherwise, the new smartphone consumer choice setting for Bluetooth will be Off.

And then it won’t matter how many beacons there are.

Beacons will be a hot topic next week at the MediaPost OMMA mCommerce conference in New York on Aug. 7. We’ll hear from the people involved in the beacon rollouts at Lord & Taylor, Hudson’s Bay, Hillshire and Regent Street. I also plan to bring a live beacon you can try out. Check out the agenda where you also can register to attend. Will I see you there?


Chuck Martin is Editor of the mCommerce Daily at MediaPost and writes the daily MobileShopTalk column. He is the author of “Mobile Influence,” “The Third Screen,” and “The Smartphone Handbook.” He is CEO of Mobile Future Institute. Chuck Martin is a frequent Mobile Keynote Speaker and Mobile Marketing Speaker internationally. He also addresses Social Media in Mobile.


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