Bluetooth beacons made by (image credit: cogdogblog).
Oct 29, 2015 · 3 min read

Beacons are excellent tools for creating location-based and real-time mobile experiences. Some big businesses are experimenting with using beacons to deliver localized, timely, and relevant information and marketing offers, including Facebook, Target, and the London Underground.

When they work, it’s magic — but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Through our own research and conversations we’ve had with companies that have tried beacons before, we’ve identified a number of problems companies run into when they decide to give beacons a try.

The Awareness Problem

A recent First Insight report showed 70% of consumers don’t know what beacons are.

This isn’t a problem for beacon technology in and of itself as beacons can still do their job without the consumer knowing what they are. The problem with that level of awareness means consumers don’t expect to have beacon-powered experiences.

In fact, almost 50% of consumers polled in the report listed barcode scanners as the most helpful in-store technology. That means consumers are turning to scanners to do some of what beacons should be doing instead.

The Bluetooth Problem

Research by Rover Labs in April 2015 shows that only about 40% of users across all devices report using bluetooth — and that’s in North America, which reports the highest usage of bluetooth out of all regions. Rates as low as 15–20% have been reported in Eastern Europe and Russia.

These numbers are changing as bluetooth connected devices become more commonplace, especially among the younger generation, but it’s important to know more than half of your customers are not reachable via beacon.

The App Problem

Large retailers may not have issues getting users to download their branded apps, but small and medium-sized businesses certainly do.

iOS 8 came with an app notification feature that is powered by both GPS geofences and iBeacons. The challenge here is GPS can be inaccurate and iBeacon-powered notifications will only work if the user already has the app installed (not to mention has bluetooth enabled).

The User Experience Problem

Most marketers mean well, but even well-meaning marketers fall into the spam trap in the pursuit of marketing performance. When that happens, the promise of the perfectly curated mobile experience turns into notification hell.

A consumer once abused will certainly be twice shy, which means legions of customers are shutting their phones off from future mobile engagement that may actually enrich their mobile experiences.

The Maintenance Problem

Thanks to Bluetooth Low Energy, beacon batteries are lasting longer than ever before, but they don’t last forever. When they die, they have to be replaced, which is a time and maintenance cost many people are eager to avoid.

Dead beacons gather no data, which means valuable insights may be lost.

Focus On Your Customer

Not everything about beacons is gloom and doom. As with any technology, there are pros and cons to beacons.

The best way to avoid the above problems when using beacons is to ask yourself repeatedly: how will this benefit my customers? What value does the beacon add to their lives?

If there isn’t a good answer to one or both of those questions, there are other technologies (including ours) that will help you cross the physical to digital divide.

At the end of the day, keeping your eye on your customer and understanding how to pick the right tool for the job will go a long way towards ensuring success.

Photo credit: cogdogblog (Flickr)

SnowShoe Stamp is a startup located in San Francisco, California. We make plastic stamps that unlock the digital world through a simple touch on your mobile device screen. Click here to learn more about how our stamps work.


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