Beacon technology is a unique and modern tool in the world of marketing. A beacon is a small device that connects with a mobile app, determines a user’s location on a micro-local scale, and delivers content to the user, based on this location. Delivering content using beacons is still in the very early stages, as it has not yet hit the mainstream media.
Beacons are particularly popular in the retail industry, but ultimately can be used anywhere: airports, restaurants, and trade shows and conferences. In the past few years, they have been increasingly used in large conferences and trade shows around the world, targeting the conference goers at the most opportune moments. The potential for creating compelling attendee experiences equipped by beacon-based applications is vast.
Beacon Integration to Large Conferences
Beacons can make a conference more interactive and personalized. It is another way for exhibitors of a conference to communicate a message, rather than only at their trade show booth. A few ways that events can put the usability of beacons to major use, are during check in and registration, improved networking, heat mapping and navigation, and exhibitor content delivery.
Check In and Registration: For easy check in, a venue can place beacons at the entrance of the conference. With the beacon-based app downloaded, the user would be auto checked in as they walk through the entrance doors. This would also help the event organizers gather information on the number of people at the event, in real-time.
Improved Networking: Networking is one of the main reasons people attend events and conferences. Beacons can easily allow the users to connect and exchange contact details, with hardly any effort. Cannes Lion Film Festival, and SXSW are two conferences that have leveraged beacons for this reason, using an ‘Around Me’ feature to see nearby attendees.
Heat Mapping and Navigation: Beacons can help direct users to their desired location within the venue. This is especially useful at large conferences having multiple exhibition halls. As a speaker session is about to begin, the user can be notified while walking by the session hall. The benefit is twofold: speakers will be able to attract interested attendees while the attendees will be able to get the most out of the event. Beacons will also identify hotspots and alert event organizers where the overcrowded areas are, thus helping them plan better for their future events.
Content Delivery: Various types of content can be pushed to the user from a mobile app, whether it be from an exhibitor, or a presentation session. Instead of having to wait until the conference is over, a presenter can deliver slides or eBooks to the audience during or after the presentation is over. Exhibitors can push notifications to the user about their company as they come near or walk by their booth.
An application with beacons integrated for a conference will be sure to enhance the usability of the application within the venue. Beacons have the potential to create a very dynamic trade show experience and change the way in which people interact with each other at such events. Beacons have been proven to enhance conferences such as MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona, Spain, and SXSW (South By SouthWest) in Austin, TX, USA.
Beacon Technology in Practice
MWC: According to MOCA, MWC’s mobile marketing partner, Mobile World Congress 2015 had the largest beacon deployment ever carried out for an event in Europe, with over 650 beacons placed on the 240,000 square meter space. At the 4-day conference, users opened the conference application an average of 26 times per day, with 83% of users receiving a proximity-based notification at least one time. MWC and MOCA were able to collect valuable data in order to improve the next conference, which is coming up this February.
SXSW: Last year at SXSW, over 1000 beacons were deployed throughout the conference, festival and trade show. The SXSW application incorporated ‘beacon zones’ to provide the attendees with a view of other attendees in the area and to provide event messages based on the user’s location within SXSW. The conference’s beacon program will proceed this year in March, with 1 beacon every 5-30 meters throughout.
Techweek: Last year, Codal built out a beacon-based scavenger hunt for a Technology conference in Chicago, Techweek. Codal placed multiple beacons around the trade show, and gave hints on the app on where to find them. Out of the hundreds of people who found all the beacons, one person won an Apple Watch at the end of the week’s events.
Considerations of the Usability of Beacons In a Conference Setting
Proper WiFi: Poor WiFi can heavily reduce the effectiveness of a beacon-based application. In large convention centers where trade shows and conferences are hosted, wireless connectivity can be inconsistent, which can cause issues with beacons connecting to an app. To avoid this issue, planners can work with the conference venue to boost the WiFi signals in the beacon-crowded areas to ensure a seamless beacon experience to event attendees.
Beacons in Close Proximity: When beacons are placed too close together in proximity, the device, or applications could have trouble identifying which beacon is which, and could deliver the wrong message to the user. The easiest solution to this is to ensure that the beacons are not placed directly next to each other.. When this isn’t possible, the beacon signal strength can be adjusted in order to reduce any interference that may occur.
Although there are some things you must consider when placing beacons around a conference setting, proximity-aware event apps are 235% more engaging than standard event apps, according to MOCA. The usability of beacon-based apps during a conference has the potential to change the experience for event attendees, organizers, and marketers.
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