22 Feb How to Generate Data Using Beacons
Today, the name of the game is who has the best data? Companies are willing to mine for it; others are even willing to pay for it. For retailers and firms operating in the physical rather than digital sphere, it can be tough to collect data. That is why retailers, manufacturers, and countless other institutions are turning to BLE beacons. These small pieces of technology help generate data that can both be analyzed by business owners and used in conjunction with larger brands for further analysis or targeting. In order to design a realistic and cost-effective program, firms must define what they hope to accomplish before they even look at beacons. Data generation for asset tracking is not as simple as installing an infrastructure and letting it all role in. Firms who choose to generate data without thoroughly examining their needs will find themselves losing money—not making it.
There are Several (Okay) Ways to Generate Data
Using commonplace technology, retailers might know when a certain person makes a purchase with a credit card, but they will have a difficult time understanding that person’s demographic. Managers might employ cameras to know when shoppers enter or exit the store. Heat maps can express roughly how people move through the space. Wifi, similarly, can digitally record how many users are coming into the space and what they are doing. Still, neither of these can offer a complete overview of a customer’s journey and background. Cameras have no idea who is in the store, and WiFi cannot know which aisles have unusually long (or short) dwell times. The result is a huge gap between commonly available technology and expectations. Healthcare providers want a clear picture of how patients are manoeuvring the space. Beacons provide the chance for online-to-offline attribution and making that last-mile connection between a mobile user and their real-world persona.
How Beacons Generate Data
Data generation is one of the beacon’s greatest capabilities. In fact, the buzzwords big data and beacon often appear hand-in-hand in headlines. The beacon, however, does not actually generate data, itself. The beacon is an almost exceedingly simple tool. That is what makes it a lean and reliable technology. A beacon is a small piece of hardware, physically attached to a wall or ceiling, that sends radio waves out at regular, very short, intervals. This signal is picked up by smartphones, usually through some kind of app.
Once a beacon infrastructure is installed, it is up to the software to do the work. This involves both the online portal and an app. Both of these tools are incredibly important for data analysis. The app functions just like any other app—meaning it can receive access to all kinds of user data. More importantly, beacons generate data regardless of opt-in rates. Even if a user chooses not to opt-in to push notifications and other options, data can still be collected. Beacons can facilitate the generation of hyper-accurate location data that carries far more value than just the number of visitors or amount of opt-ins.
Further solutions lend beacon-based campaigns even more capabilities. Select beacon solutions can identify the devices used by shoppers in order to understand their real world behaviors. If an app is able to get social information from a user, the infrastructure owner could then have access to more unique information on the visitor.
Types of Data Measurement
Beacon data can be used to examine several different kinds of customer behavior in the store. Depending on the firm, vertical, and goal, some of these will be more relevant to firms than others.
- Path: Where do visitors go first? Second? What areas do they avoid? Where do employees spend most of their time and how do they manoeuvre the space? Are packages taking the fastest route through the factory? Understanding how people or objects move through a space can illuminate the customer journey as well as highlight bottlenecks and areas for improvement.
- Visits: What kind of traffic is the location receiving? Are you receiving a large number of new visitors? When do they visit? This kind of data can help managers understand basic numbers like foot traffic and staffing optimization. Managers can also find missed opportunities by leveraging data on passers-by to make better marketing decisions and achieve higher conversion rates.
- Loyalty and Engagement: For retailers, beacons can quantify just how engaged customers are. By recognizing that a customer is returning every week or that dozens of customers visit but never engage with the merchandise or app, managers can evaluate what is and is not working in their current set-up. Other firms, including healthcare providers and public transport managers, can use beacons to gauge loyalty and engagement.
- Triggers: A trigger is actually a certain method used to generate data. It is highly unique because it does not necessarily accumulate data. It is especially useful in asset tracking scenarios when excessive real-time data is not necessary. Instead of collecting data every two seconds, the beacon and relevant software checks the position of assets and, if the positions have changed, data is recorded. If not, no data entry is made.
Generate Better Data, Not More
There are some 300,000 Google searches for Big Data each month. New technology is bringing companies of all backgrounds brand new capabilities in the form of data collection, storage, and analysis. Suddenly, nearly every firm believes they need big data to succeed in the long-run. Data is incredibly powerful, but excessive “big data” is not necessarily the key to success. One of the biggest mistakes firms make when seeking solutions to generate data is believing the more data, the better. This is not effective. Firms want to install a beacon infrastructure to decrease costs, increase revenue, and sometimes to meet regulatory requirements. Collecting unnecessary amounts of data can not only be costly but counterproductive.
For example, marijuana growers in Colorado are required by law to keep regular track of their crops. The obvious solution would be to implement a real-time tracking solution so growers can know where their plants are at all times. That, however, is not necessary. Assuming data is collected on each plant every two seconds, the result would be 1,800 data entries per plant per hour. If there are 300 plants being tracked, then 540,000 data entries would be made each hour. That data must be stored and analyzed, which only adds to the overall cost of the solution; more importantly, that extra data adds next to no value for the company. This creates a huge amount of financial waste. Instead, by tracking the plants once an hour, the company can generate a far more manageable amount of data and still be completely within regulation. If certain data is useless, collecting less of it does not make a company cheap or stingy. It makes save them money.
It is crucial that executives define their real goal before implementing a beacon infrastructure.
Triggers vs. Real-Time
In this case, there are two ways to generate data: real-time, used to automatically and almost continuously generate data, and triggers, which generate data only when the state or position of an asset changes. For most firms, real-time tracking is not actually necessary. For example, a crate is traveling through the factory. With real-time tracking, data is constantly generated on where it is. This could lead to a lot of insightful information, but it could also lead to information like this:
10:01:01 – Crate 123 at Station 456
10:01:03 – Crate 123 at Station 456
10:01:05 – Crate 123 at Station 456
10:01:07 – Crate 123 at Station 456
This data must be dealt with and stored even if it is obviously superfluous. On the other hand a trigger-based system would wait until the crate enters another area. For example:
10:01:01 – Crate 123 at Station 456
10:11:45 – Crate 123 at Station 789
11:03:05 – Crate 123 at Station ABC
11:33:07 – Crate 123 at Station 456
Because nothing happens in between these instances, it is more practical to not collect data.
If You Generate Data, Do You Own It?
Innovators expect data to become a major currency in the near future, and advertisers are on the hunt for it every day. For retailers, this can lead to some genuinely complicated, and never before considered, situations. While the retailer would like access to data generated in their store, they might not completely own it. Their app designers are often responsible for generated data, which means they can in part lay claim to it. Thomas Walle, CEO and co-founder of Unacast suggests apps embrace cross-licensing, which would allow both parties to have rights and access to the data.
“The discussion goes back and forth a couple of times, but what then sometimes happens always surprises me. The retailer or brand, too eager to start using beacons, accepts the 3rd party app’s demand and gives them the ownership to the data.
“WHAT? Why did you do that? Why do you give away the most valuable asset? Finally, you can leverage and utilize data about your customer’s offline behavior, but you choose to give it away?”
This may change as solutions become more mainstream, and perhaps cross-licensing will become commonplace. Until then, firms must prepare for this when evaluating solutions.
Would beacon data enhance your business strategies? We spoke to Unacast’s Thomas Walle to compile a 5-step guide to help firms get a handle on beacon data. Beacon value does not end at push notifications. It also does not end at heatmaps and foot traffic tracking. How can beacons better your data and bottom line? Find out here!