Did You See That? Beacon Revolution Arrives

So I get this call from Mike Della Penna, a marketing and tech wizard I've known since the mid-1990s. We had worked together at CMP Media and Cheyenne Software, before we went our separate ways to focus on a range of startups the past 15 years or so.

Mike wanted to meet for coffee. We sat down about a month ago, and gradually the conversation shifted to the invisible technology around us -- particularly beacon technology in retail stores. With beacons, businesses can ping your smart phone and lead you down a trail to...

  • a hot product you might want to buy;
  • the right airport terminal gate;
  • the right seat at a stadium; and
  • and so much.

According to The Associated Press, Macy's has installed beacons in all of its 840 retail stores. Enter a store, and perhaps you'll get an alert for a cool product in a specific section of the store. But the experience won't end there. Beacons tied to networks, point of sale systems and databases can help to analyze the entire shopping experience and sales cycle -- and how shoppers move through physical environments (stores, airports, stadiums, etc.).

That's right: Beacons are Internet of Things (IoT) end-points tied to Big Data systems. Imagine if a Beacon leads you to a specific product on a store shelf. Then you use Apple Pay to purchase the product. Using APIs, in theory, the retailer can track that entire purchase cycle to (A) help trigger similar sales with other customers, (B) determine why you "didn't" make a purchase, (C) redesign stores to drive more sales and plenty more.

For I.T. entrepreneurs, the Beacon opportunity involves:

  • Deploying total solutions.
  • Focusing on one or more of the beacon supply chain components -- Beacons, WiFi and other types of networks, point of sale systems, analytics and data sciences, and the overall Big Data analysis of the sales process.

But just like online popup ads and text alerts, Beacons could also become plenty annoying. Overwhelm shoppers with too many offers, and you could wind up pushing crowds out of your store and into the waiting arms of rivals.

Oh, and where does Mike Della Penna fit into this conversation? Too soon to say. Wink, wink.B

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