In January, Facebook started testing beacons in New York City as a way of connecting its mobile users to the Facebook pages of nearby shops and landmarks.
Now, Facebook wants to give retailers and businesses those beacons for free, and they're expanding the program to the rest of the U.S. Facebook has confirmed what they announced would likely happen, and that's giving out those free beacons for retailers who request them. This could, however, turn into a revenue generator as Facebook is looking for ways to monetize its mobile and social commerce reach.
The service that was launched in January is known as Place Tips. For those beacons, once a user comes in range, Place Tips will put information from a shop’s Facebook page above the news feed on the user’s smartphone. Users will be able to opt out of the service by turning off location services in the Facebook app, and the company said it won’t retain any data about users’ locations.
While retailers can't currently advertise with the beacons, that could eventually be the route the service goes, along with location-specific ads and push notifications.
But Facebook isn't the only social media company getting into the beacon game. Twitter’s entry into the eCommerce space started with its buy button, but then it took a beacon-driven move. Twitter recently helped lead an $18 million funding round for Swirl Networks Inc., the beacon marketing company. The Boston-based startup uses geo-fencing and iBeacon technology to enable stores to interact with customers by offering exclusive discounts in a range as close as 2 feet to an aisle.
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