Q: Why did Google send me a Beacon and what will it do for my business?
A: Beacon technology designed to help the retail industry has been around since 2013, but it’s just now becoming more mainstream.
It can do many things but the most common use case is to transmit information to visitors of your physical location, whether it be an offer or directions to a specific area of your business.
Why did Google send me one?
Any business that has used Google’s advertising platform with location extensions enabled will likely have been sent one of these small devices as part of Google’s Project Beacon.
It’s a small, battery-operated device, not much bigger than a disposable lighter, that uses the newer Bluetooth Smart (BLE — Bluetooth Low Energy) technology to transmit signals to a limited range of a couple of meters.
Unlike traditional Bluetooth, there is no need to “pair” devices in order to communicate and it’s a one-way transmission from the beacon to smartphones.
In its initial form, beacons were focused on sending offers and discounts to phones nearby, but they can do much more than that.
If, for example, you spend a lot of money on Google Adwords (now called Google Ads) for a specific product, you can do some very precise conversion tracking using beacons.
By placing a beacon in the area that the product is displayed, you can see the number of people who came to that area who have seen your ad online via their phone.
Beacons can’t track user-specific information, as they are simply transmitting a signal that the phone has to be setup to accept. The ability to cross-reference contact with the beacon back to Google’s ad tracking platform is done by the phone itself.
Apps that are designed to interact with beacons are another way to engage with customers that’s growing, as app developers make use of the tools Google has provided.
You can also transmit a message with a specific URL that will link to information that is specific to the location of the user, so that it is highly contextual.
Beacons can also monitor the varying amount of traffic in your location to track popular times for your Google business listing.
Controlling the ‘Nearby’ settings
If you want to control whether an Android device receives messages from a beacon, or if you want to see what has been previously sent to your device, you can do so in the Nearby menu in the ‘Google’ settings of your device.
If your Android device does receive a Nearby notification, it will show up as a silent notification that can only be seen when you check your notifications.
Android or iPhone users that have installed an app that works with beacons can be sent push notifications even if the app is not open. If this happens, you’ll have to go to that app’s settings to control these notifications.
Disabling Bluetooth will prevent both Android and iOS devices from getting any type of notification from beacons.
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