Is The Future Of Beacons Based In Browsers?

Apps, apps, apps. Ever since the first mobile game companies proved that a small company could spend a relatively slight amount to receive massive revenue payouts in return, retail marketers of every stripe have been trumpeting the horn of app-based commerce. Now that beacons and location-based marketing have entered that conversation, they’ve been silently subsumed into the ideology that consumer love apps; ergo, the assumption was made that they must want their beacon-based marketing communications via apps, too.

However, it was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living” — just as the unexamined beacon policy proposal isn’t worth investing in.

That’s why Mobiquity Networks, the operator of one of the largest retail beacon networks in the U.S., took Thursday (Feb. 18) to announce support for the latest software updates to Google’s open-source Eddystone beacon platform. Eschewing the fad of app-based beacon networks, Eddystone protocols dictate iterations through mobile browsers, like Chrome, Firefox and others, as its open-source development encourages flexibility and adaptability across browsers.

“Traditional beacon companies build platforms to manage beacon hardware, but at Mobiquity Networks, we have also added our turnkey proximity marketing platform on top,” Mobiquity Co-CEO Dean Julia said in a statement. “Our campaign platform takes beacon location information and turns it into actionable marketing events that can be utilized by the world’s largest advertisers. This additional layer, plus the massive scale of our beacon footprint in the U.S., is our unique advantage and is at the core of Mobiquity’s value.”

Not to be lost in the news cycle is an early February statement from Google that announced a beta version of beacon compatibility for its mobile Chrome browser. The feature will go live to a limited number of users in the Chrome 49 update, which is scheduled to roll out Feb. 29, when users will be able to opt into receiving content when in beacon-equipped places, like coffeeshops, supermarkets and sports stadiums.

OK, big deal. Beacons have found a new home where they can be just as ignored by the average mobile shopper. However, Marketing Land explained that the unassuming URL — the backbone of the Internet, mobile or not — could actually be a panacea for a beacon industry drowning under a sea of apps. As it stands now, the traditional way of going about beacon marketing requires retailers to either develop their own apps or lease a framework out from a third party. This is just half of the battle, though; merchants need to incentivize customers to download their app, fighting the intense war for customers’ smartphone screen space. It’s a system that favors resource-heavy retailers, and even those industry giants can’t seem to get people excited enough about coupons and discounts to download all the apps they really need to shop in constant contact with beacons.

With browser-based networks, though, Marketing Land noted that beacons can just emit URLs, the basic unit of browser information, to lead customers wherever they want them to go. It’s a simple format that most customers already have a decade or two of experience with, and it creates a functional link between the website — the same one customers see if they’re not actively shopping — and a store’s physical presence. Scott Jensen, Google Physical Web leader, told Marketing Land that the switch to browser-based beacons could invert the normal power dynamic of pull marketing; instead of coaxing users to come visit a website, a world of beacons transmitting over ubiquitous browsers will allow customers to actively search for the things that interest them.

“The Web needs a discovery service,” Jensen said.

Google, Mobiquity and beacons are certainly trying to make that happen.