In his presentation at America’s Customer Festival 2014, Jerry Filipiak, CEO of Comarch Inc., described the Internet of Things (IoT) as “the marketing of hope,” meaning the technology’s success will come from guiding users through various journeys fueled by hope.

Jerry Filipiak presenting Internet of Things at America's Customer Festival 2014

Journey + Hope + Reward = Rich User Experience

Any given customer’s purchases or non-purchases are results of his/her specific journeys, or their decisions in time and space. Filipiak explained that customers are incentivized by rewards, which encourage people to continue through to the end of their journeys. Those rewards may come in the form of a discount off a future purchase, valuable points toward a loyalty program, or simply the purchase of a desired item. Regardless of what the reward actually is, it must be contextually relevant and engaging in order for it to motivate people through their journeys (e.g., the discount off a future purchase is only useful to someone that will actually be coming back for a future purchase and can apply that discount to items they want to purchase).   

According to Filipiak, when a journey is driven by hope and rewards, a rich user experience is established. But the user needs some sort of a guide to remind them that the journey is worth completing for a particular reward, that they must “keep hope alive.” The perfect guide for such a task? Beacons!

Beacons: The Ultimate Guides (When Used Properly)

When introducing beacons to people in various settings, the devices are the stimuli that encourage people to continue on their journey. However, Filipiak clarified, beacons must be used properly depending on their environment to be effective and help deliver messages to end users. In a lab setting where three beacons are situated in a small room and someone with a smartphone is walking around, the beacons are the only stimuli and they’re not competing with anything else for the user’s attention.

Beacon triangulation effectUsing the example of Times Square, a setting with infinite stimuli, Filipiak pointed out that it is much harder to use beacons to engage people when there are many other distractions vying for attention. Stimulating a potential customer in a setting such as Times Square is difficult enough on its own, and using something like beacons may prove even more challenging. “You can’t assume engagement,” Filipiak warned. “In a place like Times Square, you can’t assume that people already have their phones out, have Bluetooth on and have the beacon-connected app open.” When used properly, though, beacons are the ultimate guides to users looking to complete their journey. Beacons just have to be used in settings that make sense for the technology – and the potential uses for beacons are seemingly limitless.

Future of Beacons

In Filipiak’s opinion, incentivizing users to both download the app (beacons must be integrated with an app to deliver contextual messages to users) and keep their Bluetooth on (beacons use BLE technology to communicate with smart devices) are two of the main challenges to the adoption of beacons.

Also, beacons must “excite in an excited state,” meaning beacons should significantly enhance the user experience by delivering contextually relevant messaging that helps users complete a journey and ultimately achieve a reward. Filipiak reminded everyone of Yo, an extremely simple app that operates on the basic function of users sending single-tap “Yo” notifications to one another – seriously, that’s it. But Yo, mostly ridiculed because of how trivial it is, has raised over $1.5 million in seed funding and has been downloaded more than 2 million times.

Yo, at its base form, is ridiculous. However, the potential of a single-tap, zero-character communication tool is quite powerful – which is why it’s valued at such a high price. As Yo continues to evolve, it’s starting to show its naysayers just how useful it can be. Like Yo, Filipiak feels that beacons, when applied properly and given context, will evolve into a highly influential solution. Instead of a “yo,” beacon-connected apps can deliver their own form of simple communications to engage users. For example: “Hi, [Name]. You are close to your reward; please follow this route to it.”

What makes beacons so great is their ability to use location to send contextually relevant information to users, guiding them along their journeys, keeping hope alive and helping them obtain rewards – all through the convenience of smart devices in today’s always-connected environment.