What beacon technology means for franchise owners.
By Sylvain Bellaïche
The development of beacon technology has opened up exciting new prospects for franchise owners. With the competition for brick-and-mortar customers in the smartphone era more intense than ever before, the ongoing success of a franchise depends strongly on utilizing technology to increase brand loyalty and sales to current and potential customers.
Thanks to a wide range of functionalities, beacons are the perfect tool to achieve this goal. What follows is a brief overview of several of these features, and how they can help contribute to a franchise’s success.
With the appropriate beacon platform, a franchise can promote specific products at specific times of the year, themed to holidays and/or the changing seasons. For example, clothing retailers can promote fall or spring fashions while restaurants can promote seasonal menu items as well as specific breakfast/lunch/dinner selections based on time of day. This increased sensitivity to the variability in customers’ desires enhances a franchise’s value to the consumer.
More generally, beacons make proximity marketing a practical possibility, alerting passersby in the vicinity of a store about the offers on tap inside and enticing them to enter the premises to learn more. Numerous studies spotlighting the power of proximity marketing have analyzed its importance in an era when people are being tempted to purchase many items directly from their smartphones. A franchise harnessing proximity strategies has the power to counteract this strong trend, and even to build on today’s smart shoppers’ new purchasing habits by combining time and location to generate instant sales.
In the era of Amazon wish lists and targeted online advertising, the ability to personalize offers with beacons is a huge plus for franchise owners. Individual, mom-and-pop stores can keep track of particular walk-in customers’ likes; traditionally, franchises could not do the same for their customers. But by keeping track of a customer’s purchase history, a sophisticated beacon platform can spotlight items likely to be of personal interest.
Speaking of personalization, beacon messaging can be controlled by a single user but can be customized for each particular location in a chain. As a result, it can solve a unique challenge faced by franchise owners: how to preserve a chain’s overall brand identity while also appealing to customers in a specific region or neighborhood. For example, by tweaking the message sent via beacon, a chain-wide special offer on a lunch menu can be applied to different food items that are popular in particular geographic areas.
Separate from the considerations above, the use of beacons as a marketing strategy allows franchises to save a considerable amount of money. Previously, a chain would need to print display ads for each and every franchise location and ensure their strategic placement, involving a considerable expenditure of time and manpower. The use of beacons avoids this need and ensures that the chain can allocate its financial resources for more important needs.
In turn, customers themselves – who might be jaded by traditional forms of signage – are considerably more likely to be engaged by offers that appear on their phones. As citizens of the cyber age, we have all become conditioned to respond to the immediacy of a message that appears on the screens of the devices we carry around with us. This is one of the strongest advantages of beacon marketing: The messages we receive are very difficult to ignore and therefore receive greater attention.
A related consideration involves beacons’ ability to reach out to the most recalcitrant customers – those least likely to venture inside a brick-and-mortar location. Ordinarily, such customers would be characterized as potentially “lost” and outside the radius of a franchise location’s marketing influence. However, the ability to reach even these customers via beacon can opens up a new wave of customer interest that can bolster existing and future sales.
One of the most powerful advantages offered by beacons to franchises is the ability to keep their marketing campaigns fresh, which can mean updating messages in real time and also revising messages in response to positive or negative customer engagement. This continual honing of messages is clearly available exclusively via the use of electronic media. The era of sustaining a marketing campaign for too long – after it has long been observed that response is weak – is a thing of the past.
Today’s beacon platforms also incorporate a sophisticated array of analytic tools that make it possible for franchise owners to know a great deal about their customers – not only their purchasing history but also which aisles in a franchise location have the heaviest foot traffic. It is also easy to see which messages are being opened and clicked on, and which offers are resulting in the most signups. The success of special promotions can be gauged as well.
Finally, franchise owners may ponder ways to reach customers who have not yet downloaded the franchise’s app onto their smartphones. As it happens, it is becoming more common for franchise locations to offer franchise-sponsored Wi-Fi. Once a customer has signed on to this service, marketing messages can be transmitted to customers’ phones even in the absence of the app on the phone. This considerably extends the possibilities for beacon-oriented marketing strategies.
Clearly, beacons offer a strong tool for franchises owners interested in maximizing the success of their businesses in the smartphone era. Those in charge of marketing for franchises large and small across a wide range of sectors should not overlook the potential of this technology.
Sylvain Bellaïche is the founder and CEO of Digital Social Retail, a company that has developed a beacon management platform that is revolutionizing the relationship between customers and brands.