Beacons and Bar Apps: Can Proximity Technology Transform the Bar Scene?

Beacons and Bar Apps: Can Proximity Technology Transform the Bar Scene?

Bars and brewers are turning to mobile apps to engage customers and fans. Now, beacons are taking bar apps to the next level.

There’s nothing an avid beer fan wouldn’t do to get their favorite brew. Now, the Internet of Things is coming to craft beer aficionados and stadium pint drinkers alike. Beacons are often limited to promotions and ad campaigns. Now, brewers large and small are turning to cutting edge beacon technology to put a little hop in their old step.

Bluetooth beacons are small wireless devices that transmit a nearly continuous signal. This signal is picked up by the smart devices of passers-by. When hooked up to the right bar apps, the signal will trigger an action on the user’s smartphone. This is one way to simplify loyalty programs, gather points, offer services like navigation, and just about anything else an app developer can think of.

Ye Olde Bar Apps

Modern beer drinkers are slowly transitioning from purely analog stores to digital ones–including your local watering hole. Favorite bars will soon not only have their own websites and social media accounts but their own bar apps. For craft beer drinkers, this is a particularly special opportunity. Craft brewers and pubs can hook up all their beer notes via the bar app. Yelling to bartenders, asking for their input on the day’s offerings, is nearly impossible in a crowded bar. In situations where a busy bartender doesn’t have the time to explain each and every one of their beers to visitors, beacons can provide a sense of ease.

In a beacon-equipped bar, app users gain access to the day’s beer notes the second they enter the premises. This could include simple information, like what’s on tap that evening, or more complex things, like tasting notes, suggestions, and pairings. While visitors can still interact with staff, they are also able to access important information straight from their smartphone.

Streamline with Mobile

There’s another snag in the beer-lover’s agenda: beer can be expensive. While cafes have stamp cards, bars rarely have their own loyalty programs apart from the occasional on-the-house freebie. This is, in part, because running such a program would prove difficult for bartenders. There is simply no way to easily keep track of purchases or customers on such a minute level. That’s why bars need beacons to automate the drudgery and take care of paperwork.

Major brands have already begun rolling out beacon-based bar apps, wherein visitors gain points just by entering or hanging out in the bar. This means regulars are able to automatically build up points just by doing what they do.Bartenders do not to need to worry about recording information, and visitors do not have to worry about a wallet full of stamp cards. Everything goes through a dedicated app and comes out as beer and data. Most importantly, there is a market for this technology.

A recent study found that 52% of millennials want to use their mobile devices for food and beverage loyalty programs.

Plus, app developers and brewers are free to come up with new ways of engaging with customers and make it fit seamlessly into their overall branding. Whether a bar chooses to offer coupons, free flights, special concoctions or labels is up to the brewer, and it is the beacon infrastructure that makes such solutions possible.

Creating Safer Options Through Beacon Solutions

Conversely, beacon-based bar apps also provide a very unexpected and important function: fighting drunk driving. Apps can be configured to register how long a visitor has been checked into a bar. This means, when a customer leaves a bar in the wee hours of the morning, the app recognizes that the person is likely intoxicated. A push notification offers to hail a cab, call an Uber, or ring their mom. The simplicity and ease of this solution could have a great impact on more than just app users. While a number of factors contribute to drinking and driving, the simple suggestion and immediate offer to remedy the situation could be one of the more meaningful use cases for beacons in the food and beverage industry.

Several studies have already suggested programs that assist in finding a ride may reduce instances of impaired driving. MADD and Uber, together, found the Uber app could be reducing up to 60 crashes a month in its California markets. While an app cannot completely erase drunk driving, it is the automation of the process that could lead to changes. When an individual automatically receives a notification suggesting that their actions suggest intoxication, and then automatically triggers a process that could take them home safely, that person may be more likely to skip getting behind the wheel.

Beacons transform bar apps, and it's delicious!

City of Ale and Apps

Last year, the Loka app from Proxama showed visitors to the Norwich City of Ale festival what proximity can really do. This story is of particular interest as it wasn’t funded by one brand or bar. Instead, the festival organizers used beacon technology to simply create a smarter, more informed atmosphere.

The ten day city-wide celebration of beer includes over 225 local ales, making it difficult for visitors to get a handle on all the options. To combat this, Loka had BLE beacons installed in participating pubs and collaborated with pub and brewery owners to compile data on what would be going on during the festival. Visitors could use the bar app to find offers and beers they might have otherwise missed. The app even enabled visitors to donate to the festival’s chosen charity.

What Could Go Wrong?

Beacons and proximity marketing must be used wisely. There is one major way beacons and bar apps can go wrong. Breweries and pubs must be smart about how they interact with customers. It is up to marketers to live up to customers’ expectations and not oversaturate phones with useless messages.

Marketers will try anything to interact with their customers (or potential customers), but they must do so in a way that is genuinely beneficial to their audience. Companies could plan to send initial alerts as a customer approaches the store, a second one as the customer stands out front, and follow up messages asking if the person wants to turn around. That is a fast way to end up on a customers “no-go” list.

Beacons transform bar apps, and it's delicious!

Pull Up a Beacon

Beacon-based technology and automation may seem unusual now, but they will be necessary if bar owners want to engage with audiences digitally. As customers become ever more attached to their smartphones, digital interaction will become inevitable. Smart apps will keep customers happy with rewards, tips, and handy tools. It will also remove much of the burden from employees. The traditional bartender-customer dynamic will remain fully intact. However, when the customer really needs it, they have the option of using proximity-powered apps and information.

Looking for the right solution? Shoot us an email and let’s see what we can do! Or get Your Own Beacons and start planning your next project.

You can also test out beacon solutions for yourself in the Proximity Studio. We’re located right in the heart of Berlin.