Picture an intrepid crew of crime-solvers making their way through a spooky old mansion. They are on the tail of a suspect. Cobwebs. Dim lighting, maybe candles. Invisible eyes watch as the heroes pass by. As they pass a particular hallway that leads to an old kitchen, a voice seemingly coming from a portrait whispers helpfully through the walls, “Clues are bloody… like knives in a ‘butler’s’ pantry…” Our sleuths take heed. Weapon found, suspect caught, mystery solved.
Substitute the mansion with a mall, portraits with beacons, ears with a smartphone, and the crime-solvers with regular shoppers looking for deals for the holidays, and you have a model use of Signal360’s beacon technology suite.
Casual yet shrewd, the beacon transmits targeted information to nearby recognized smartphones, alerting them to choice deals or supplementing information that may or may not be conspicuously displayed to all visitors or consumers. It’s similar to coupons being mailed or private event info that are emailed to frequent shoppers or club members, but in real time.
Recounting the original pitch, cofounder and CEO Alex Bell recalls a slicker, more theatrical comparison from a client: “We want the Minority Report.” In reality, however, beacons are not obtrusive like the “Big Brother is always watching” advertisements portrayed in the film. Consumer and/or visitors have to actively opt-in, in order for the beacons to communicate with their smart phones. It isn’t ambush marketing, unlike those that follow Tom Cruise in the movie.
“At its best, Signal360 is giving a personalized friendly tap on the shoulder when it matters most,” explains Lev Raslin, Signal360’s Senior Director of Business Development. This would be helpful for, example, to people who perpetually wait till the last minute to shop for presents. Imagine picking up a bag that is just the perfect one you had in mind as a gift, but it’s a little too much for your budget. Signal360’s beacon may be able to help you.
“You’re looking to buy something in an aisle and you get an offer for one such product as you are looking for it,” Lev adds. Beacon technology may be able to help a loyal patron save both money and time.
But wouldn’t the technology also make it easier for marketers and advertisers to bombard the consumer till it becomes too much? Reflecting on the beacon’s pop image, Alex concedes that the vision often associated with this sort of technology is often, unnecessarily, “apocalyptic.”
“There are lots of things in the world that are (already) paid for by advertisements and marketing,” he points out, “things like the New York Times.” He adds that by tailoring the delivery of advertising messages, beacons actually have the potential to reduce the onslaught of marketing media and to rejuvenate what Alex calls the “symbiotic ecosystem” of business, consumer, and ad-funded content creator. In this way he separates himself from Mad Men (Signal360’s offices are located on Fifth Avenue, anyways, in a Manhattan neighborhood recently coined NoMad–short for North of Madison Park. So they are really NoMad Men?)
So how does beacon technology work?
Say, you’re a Golden State Warriors fan. You’ve downloaded their app after hearing it’ll hook you up with special deals. It asks you whether it can use your Bluetooth, your microphone, and your location services, and then asks whether it can send you some extra notifications even when it’s not on-screen. After opting in, you take your seat at the game. A nearby beacon silently and invisibly whispers its name to your phone.
And then the second line of Signal360’s suite kicks in: the content management system. The Warriors get a birds-eye view of all their beacons, and attaches to each identifier a context-specific message Want a better seat? They’ve got a deal to offer. So their app, recognizing your ID, pings you with a notification to let you know. And their proprietary Content Management System (CMS) takes notes: Do you take the offer? Do you close it? Do you not even respond? If you seem bugged, it’ll take a hint and back off.
THE BEACON BOYS
BY JUSTIN SARETT with Loy Carlos