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Business  11, Jul 2014

Reach out to your consumers via Bluetooth with this contextual ad tool

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Beacon-In is a mobile app through which brands can send product information, offers, coupons directly to the smartphones of the users in vicinity

Image Courtesy: The Social Mill

Founded by Aditya Haripurkar, who comes from the financial services segment of the corporate sector, the Social Mill is a creative content agency with offices in Singapore and India, and an innovative product, Beacon-In. Melding Bluetooth and Apple iBeacon technologies, it enables context-sensitive advertising by merchants and marketers.

Apple’s iBeacon technology triggers an action on a smartphone when in range of an iBeacon, impacting on how users interact with facilities, whether in retail environments or travel locations, for example. Largely untested at this stage, the technology has potential, but its realistic deployment and use cases aren’t established.

What’s the app all about
Beacon-In is part of a wave of startups implementing and monetising the technology. It’s building an enterprise-oriented service for merchants and marketers to interact with consumers and prospective customers via iBeacons, coupling the software with a hardware device.

Some use cases could be airlines putting iBeacons in their planes and upon arriving at the gate the service would ping all phone users on board, on iOS and Android, with useful destination information. Naturally, it can also be used in marketing, to push flash sales, promotions and also advertising, a less welcome and intrusive prospect for users.

Unlike NFC or QR codes, the technology is platform-agnostic and independent of apps. Beacon-In offers analytics, creative services and consulting to clients, to customise Beacon-In for its merchants. Beacon-In launched consumer-facing apps for iOS  in June and is launching them for Android this month.

This is a listings-based app designed as a way for users to find nearby retail or F&B outlets, and also delivering iBeacon interactions from other merchants, brands and services listed in the app. iBeacon interactions can be used as a standalone feature in an app, or as an additional feature in existing apps.

How the idea emerged
Beacon-In’s story began when Haripurkar realised that marketing saturated daily life, but was often irrelevant, as it lacked targeting. Useful information wasn’t communicated with any relevance, specificity or timeliness, ignoring individual or group context. This ultimately limited its effectiveness.

Beacon-In came from this insight and was built as a solution which could benefit merchants and marketers, by providing context-sensitive advertising on smartphone. According to Haripurkar, “It makes sense in today’s day and age, where most people’s attention is on their smartphones. This is happening even when people are watching television, hence the smartphone has become the centre of our universe and is now a very powerful medium.”

Also Read: Even after 9 years, Smaato sees itself as a startup

Business thesis
Haripurkar believes Beacon-In provides strong brand user engagement factor, crucial in influencing and strengthening purchasing intent. However, due to it being in the early stages of development, the current focus is educating people on its benefits, and deploying it as widely as possible.
Beacon-In’s target markets are:

    • Tourism are hospitality, where it will cater to the needs of hotels and airlines for checking in and other travel activities
    • F&B outlets, such as bars and restaurants, or nightlife venues where ticketing can be automated
    • Education facilities, where it can be used to gauge class attendance
    • Urban mapping solutions in cities.

Merchants, marketers and other service providers who use the product can implement it in different ways. Haripurkar explained an example, saying “Starbucks might have an app with a different name that focusses only on iBeacon interactions in addition to their standard app which has the stores details, information on drinks, etc.”

While certainly an interesting concept,  iBeacon is more likely to gain traction in markets where there is extensive smartphone penetration, such as Singapore, Japan, Australia and other developed economies where clients have the purchasing power. So the next time you step into a store, you just might have an advertisement popping up telling you about that special offer for that thing you’ve been thinking about buying, courtesy of Beacon-In.

Also Read: Video ads pump revenue into mobile games without hurting IAPs

Shiwen Yap

Shiwen Yap

Shiwen is passionate about exploring science, technology and entrepreneurship ideas and is an avid advocate of open source technologies and methodologies.

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