Thanks to all the functionality of your everyday smart device, where you use your phone is now just as important as how you use it. Mobile GPS and new frontiers in Bluetooth technology will see a paradigm shift in the relationship between small businesses and their customers, opening up a whole new dimension of effective marketing in the process. From futuristic shopping experiences to innovative tourism concepts, geography will no doubt change the face of business around the world.

Geotagging: Be seen and heard

Geotagging refers to attaching geographic data to anything digital. Photos, videos, websites, apps – your phone can now behave differently depending upon where you are, and businesses worldwide are beginning to take advantage.

In the retail world, Bluetooth tech is all the rage, and beacon technology is leading the charge. Developed as a way to communicate with devices inside a set distance, a low-energy Bluetooth transmitter (either your phone or an external device such as Estimote can communicate wirelessly with your device to trigger a custom response. For example, you could push an exclusive offer to loyal customers who walk within 20m of your store, or notify them when their order has been assembled. PayPal’s Beacon product adds Bluetooth payment functionality to the experience, with PayPal app users able to make a purchase from their phone, or even their smartwatch!

Geotagging offers solutions outside of retail too. Imagine a museum that could instinctively explain what you are looking at depending on where you are. Annual music conference SXSW used Beacons to advertise last-minute events and encourage social discussion. Staff can also benefit with warehouse order tracking, car mileage logging and even digital locks on computers or restricted areas that can be accessed with your smartphone.

Check in, check out

Gone is the time when location services meant a simple check-in to make your friends jealous of your holiday. Geotagging and geolocation are becoming crucial travel tools. Yelp’s Monocle feature is an augmented reality app that uses your phone’s camera to see an overlay of local business information. Even Starbucks made searching for their cafés a breeze — just use your location to see the nearest store. Dig a little deeper, and the potential functionality gets even cooler. The US’s Starwood Hotels trialled beacon tech that allows guests to skip check-in and unlock their room with a smartphone. General Electric has even installed beacons inside light bulbs, opening the possibility to track how customers behave in stores and adjust merchandising accordingly.

The future

his is just the beginning for such emerging tech, and businesses only have gains to make. Major League Baseball rolled out beacons across their stadiums, offering local merchandise coupons or seat upgrades to anyone who checks-in to the baseball (social check-ins doubled in one season.)  NBA team The Warriors use beacon tech to ping the nosebleed section for cheap seat upgrades, and send merch deals to dedicated fan sections.

The Warriors fans who use beacon tech spend 93% more than those who don’t.

So far, the tool has been utilised by big businesses with the resources to experiment, but these features will trickle down into user-friendly, affordable interfaces for everyday customers. Though we might not see the personalised shopping experience Tom Cruise experienced in Minority Report just yet, initiatives in loyalty programs and customer acquisition will see a more intimate consumer relationship than ever. How you make the most of it is up to you!

Tips for small businesses:

  • Remember that geotagging notifications are an opt-in service, and require downloading of a loyalty app or some permission app to receive notifications.
  • There are also limits for notifications — usually requiring a minimum of 20 seconds within your exclusion zone (so those passing through aren’t disturbed).
  • Avoid bombarding your customers with notifications or they will turn off their permissions.
  • Make your beacon tech simple and valuable to customers — include an offer or an extremely hard to resist deal so your notifications add value to the customer experience. People love a deal, but hate notifications.
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Stuart McDonald

Performance Media Manager

Stuart McDonald,
Performance Media Manager

Stuart is Red Wire’s resident devices expert. Android enthusiast, Virtual Reality road tester, and SnapChatter, Stuart is widely acknowledged to be the ‘DJ Khaled of Data.’