New(ish) tech from Google – say Hello to Project Beacon

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Adam Cook

Google has introduced a new device into the digital market – I mean, we say “new” it’s been available the best part of 4 years… Sorry we’re just catching up. 

Beacons

Beacons are small devices which send out signals over a short distance, they are Bluetooth powered and look something like this:

Different styles of Beacons
Source: ICEMD

Devices like mobiles within the nearby range can pick up on this signal and be served interactive messages about local stores, promotions and other marketing material. 

Since Apple introduced the iBeacon back in 2013, there has been no real impact on the tech industry, and the buzz around the introduction of this has dropped massively. Many practical issues occurred and showed marketers that there is so much potential but not enough experience behind the subject – Leading to tons of limitations.

Limitations

  • Beacon notifications are not built into the system, which means that you need to download a separate app for the Beacon to work on your smartphone
  • Tracking can only occur when your device is switched on
  • Wifi/mobile data and Bluetooth need to be turned on
  • There is a risk of irrelevant notifications being sent to yourself
  • Deciding on how many beacons to use in specific locations is hard as you can’t determine users pinpoint location
  • Not having enough beacons may lead to notifications not reaching the intended target user 

Apple iBeacon

Apple opened so many doors for this now innovative and thriving industry from their famous conference in 2013. Location data and compatibility between iOS and Android devices is an example of this interactivity.

The iBeacon allows beacons to run off broadcast signals, which the user must have a relevant app to gain a signal from nearby beacons. This signal does not track the location of the user, whereas Google’s Project Beacon can pinpoint the exact location.

The difference between iBeacon and Beacons

Confused? Beacons are physical devices that use Bluetooth low energy (BLE), and iBeacons are another way to transmit data. 

Now, let’s move on to the next generation of Beacons.

What is Google Project Beacon?

Google took advantage of this gap in the market in 2015 when they introduced Google Project Beacon and shined a new light towards a new generation of beacon technology. They have given the developers the needed tools and resources that are required to build a beacon. 

In fact, the Google beacon has improved practical issues and allows development for beacon manufacturers to support all functions from desired clients like yourself. Google has given you the opportunity to assign multiple actions to a single beacon.

The Beacon provides accurate location signals, allowing you to track a user’s specific location from their device connection, and the app install can send out a particular action. This could be things like special offers or even showing that the user has arrived at a location.

Introduction to Eddystone 

Struggling to understand what exactly this new Google technology is? 

Let’s dive right in.

Firstly, Eddystone is a beacon technology introduced by Google as an alternative to Apple’s iBeacon. It is incredibly similar to the iBeacon but has targeted vital areas which make a difference.

This advanced technology is compatible with Android and iOS devices due to this being a BLE beacon. Eddystone is capable of sending you four types of signals, while the iBeacon can only send out one. User interaction is then broadened out further. Eddystone URL is also included within this as it brings you the physical web and URL signals together.

Google Eddystone
Source: Estimote

The Google Cloud Platform software now manages your beacon system store and sends across attachments. Each beacons health is monitored through this account all from one place. 

Infact, developers are now able to share resources and create new experiences with different applications.

Google’s API and proximity beacon have advanced beacons into being much more accurate and stronger due to producing nearby messages API. Larger systems of beacons have benefited from this as they are much easier to manage.

For example, Google have pointed out that:

Beacon content for Android

How to get a Google Beacon

  • Many Google partners provide Eddystone software beacons, such as:

Accent systems – Who have implemented the thinnest and strongest range of beacons

Reco – Who give users the location software and integration for beacon coverage

Sensoro – Who provide ultra-low power consumption, long battery life and an ultra-long coverage

Google’s Beacon is much more advanced as this provides core support, ephemeral ID support and universal configuration

  • Once you have chosen your desired beacon system, you must select a frame type which is Eddystone-UID or Eddystone-EID

Eddystone-UID – Enables you to attach one or more URLs and data with your Beacon as well as updating beacon attachments beacon

Eddystone-EID – Allows you to advertise a specific URL, providing security with only your app being able to recognise the Beacon and produce content

  • You must then register ownership of your beacons with Google, which can be done on the Beacons Tools App
  • Finally, you are now able to add attachments to your Beacon, and the Google Beacon Dashboard is recommended for this

There is a full guide to getting started with Beacons on the Google Developers site.

How can your brand benefit from Google Project Beacon?

There are so many opportunities available from beacon technology, especially more local businesses. The introduction of beacons has improved the overall shopping experience for the consumer. 

Beacons allow you to see where customers go in-store, how many buy a product before or after identifying promotional offers.

Additionally, if they are passing your store sending a beacon signal across may entice them into entering the store.

Sending loyalty rewards to your customers as they are completing a purchase or submitting a signal of related products is two common methods being used by companies.

Beacon example
Source: WordPress

These above examples are all proximity marketing methods since you are communicating with users based on their location and launching relevant messages. Proximity marketing helps businesses like yourself accurately target users and lead them towards specific storefronts. Therefore, targeting potential foot traffic is critical for local and retail stores.

How does this affect your Local SEO?

With the use of Google’s Proximity Beacon API, different reviews, photos and user-generated content are found from the number of location visitors.

Beacons track data
Source: Google

Your overall SEO may not be affected, but using beacons will affect segments which Google care about. For example, when a user visits your business, they will receive a notification asking them to leave a review or even upload a photo of the company.

This adds to the whole social proof of your specific business.

Beacon affecting Google My Business Listing & Google Adwords

Purchasing and installing a beacon for your business will give a massive boost towards your Google My Business (GMB). This is due to its capabilities of tracking busy visitor times and adding to the accuracy of your GMB listing. More information on check-in and request users will be gathered, which can increase the store photos. The Google Local Guide Service helps to gain more reviews for your business. 

You can create a Google My Business Listing here, if you don’t have one already.

With the new developments of this technology, connecting online advertising to offline user actions is now available. You can do this by connecting your Google Adwords account through to the Google Beacon, which allows Google search ads to be within the signals sent out to users. 

As a business, you can gain a clearer and accurate insight into the amount of return on investment you are gaining from PPC ads.

Impact on Google Nearby

Google Nearby requires no pre-installed app and allows you to instantly discover nearby locations and information through scanning every Beacon around the user’s specific location such as Google Maps. This consists of three types of interactions:

  • Communications: Connecting you digitally together such as sharing gaming software or even data transfers
  • Nearby message service: Exchanging information through different devices rather than being on the same type of network
  • Nearby notifications: This sends out location-based push notifications to users, requires no app and uses secure URLs

This again can affect proximity marketing campaigns chosen by yourself and is an excellent opportunity for offline companies as they can send share information or advertise URLs without installing an app.

Brands using the Google Beacon Platform

Macy’s – Launched a gamification method of interacting with users by launching a mobile game based on their Thanksgiving campaign. Push notifications were sent out to users in the location area, enticing them to come into the specific store. This provides a benefit for the consumer as well as the business since the consumer process is gamified, and the foot traffic increased. 

The brand is looking to maximise store visits by showing the customer that they have previously liked a specific product online and showing that it is available in store.

Target – This business has used beacons to guide users around the store, identifying where products are. Each aisle would be listed on the user’s device, which fulfilled the needs of the customer and their overall user experience.

Conclusion

The beacon devices have come a long way since the development of Google Project Beacon, and they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for fixing issues and development opportunities. Proximity marketing is on track for success heading into 2020 and is a good option for any business with a marketing plan.

google project beacon