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Yext Launches Xone Beacon Network For Offline-To-Online Engagement
New program has potential to mainstream beacon adoption, expand use cases.
Yext, which has primarily been a business data and presence management company, has launched Xone, a new (free) in-store beacon program for enterprises with multiple locations and small businesses (SMBs). Among its very interesting potential use cases is the ability to re-engage offline store visitors later on Facebook and Twitter — and eventually more ad networks and platforms.
To refresh your recollection, beacons are small Bluetooth-powered pieces of hardware that have the capacity to transmit signals at short range to nearby smartphones (or tablets). Apple is promoting a beacon standard (iBeacon), and Google just released one itself (Eddystone). There are numerous hardware companies that make beacons, such as Gimbal and Estimote.
Examples of beacons from various makers
Source: LSA-Future of Privacy Forum
Understanding of how beacons work or whether they “track” people is still quite hazy. Beacons are very privacy-friendly; they don’t track consumers. Indeed, for beacons to operate as intended, two essential pre-conditions must exist:
- The user must have a relevant app on the phone to interpret the beacon signal (e.g., a retailer app).
- Bluetooth on the phone must be turned on.
If both conditions are met, beacons can do many interesting things: send in-store welcome messages, enable mobile payments and offer additional content or promotions to on-site customers.
A frequently discussed and unimaginative beacon scenario is in-store couponing. However, there are numerous other interesting potential uses that can help personalize the in-store customer experience and engage in-store shoppers.
Numerous retailers have tested beacons, and a couple have done limited deployments. Thus far, Target is the largest retailer in the US to do a multi-store rollout of beacons, now in process. However, Yext’s extensive customer base, free beacons and social media engagement capabilities suggest that it may be the one to help mainstream retail adoption of this valuable technology.
Giving away free beacons (at least for now) removes the “what should it cost, which one should we buy?” friction. An emerging third-party app-network addresses the individual merchant app-install problem. Among app-launch partners is Mapquest. As with its data syndication network, Yext is paying app publishers for participation, which will speed development of the network.
Example of potential Xone user experience
So far, app reach is 30 million in the US across a number of apps. The hope is to reach more than 100 million smartphone users in a relatively short period.
Any retailer or merchant with a Yext beacon in its stores or locations, provided the opt-in conditions are met, can deliver any message it wants (e.g., “Hi there,” “try our fish tacos,” “sale items in the back”). During this first rollout phase, Yext is offering only a single beacon for free. That somewhat constrains in-store promotional scenarios, because of beacon-range limits. But merchants will also gain valuable data about foot traffic patterns and store visits (time of day, day of week), which can be used for a variety of planning purposes.
The most interesting Xone use case in my mind is offline-to-online re-engagement. A user who has interacted with a merchant message in store can then be engaged on Facebook or Twitter. The in-store customer smartphone IDFA (or Android ID) will be hashed and matched to Facebook or Twitter’s user databases.
This is essentially Facebook Custom Audiences and the Twitter equivalent of using store visitors to generate an online match. Yext is supplying data, but it’s not morphing into a media buying platform. While Yext customers get the beacons for free, they will have to subscribe to the new Xone data service, just as they pay a fee for Yext’s location data management today.
As a hypothetical example of how this might be used, say you’re Chipotle. You could promote a loyalty offer or new menu item to people you knew had been in your locations within the past 60 or 90 days. (You could even use lookalike audiences on Facebook to expand audience reach.) This scenario could probably be done today through a traditional loyalty program and email marketing. However, the Yext beacon program brings that same capability to potentially much broader audiences with less friction.
I’ve been writing a great deal recently about online-to-offline analytics. This is its opposite: speaking to the online or mobile user after an offline visit. Combining the two makes a truly “closed loop.”