Replicating the Regular Experience with Bluetooth Beacons

What does it mean to be a “regular” with a “usual”?

Imagine walking into a restaurant where the whole staff knows you and what you like. After going into the same coffee shop daily for a month or two, you develop the “regular” feeling where all the baristas say “Good morning, Zak!” when you walk in groggy at 7:45 every morning. Then proceed to ask if you want your “usual” order. Making one less decision in the morning is nice — especially when you haven’t had your coffee yet. What if this experience could be replicated most places you go without requiring you to go in every morning and order the same thing for a month?

Let’s say one day you decide to switch up the coffee shop and decide to go to the one underneath your office instead. Despite only going here a few times, you walk in and hear the same greeting, “Hi Zak!” followed by, “You having your usual today?” Sounds strange, but with current restaurant apps and proximity technology, this is completely possible.

With technological advances for brick and mortar stores, the human element is quick to disappear, especially with so much new technology looking to automate every part of our day to day lives. However, technology, specifically beacons, does not have to replace the human element — -technologies like BLE beacons can augment and improve interactions with customers by enabling applications that offer new recommendations for customers, identify which customers need help in the store, etc.

How are location services currently used?

On your phone, apps such as Starbucks leverage Apple’s CoreLocation API to “nudge” you to open the app when near one of their stores. CoreLocation leverages technologies such as GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi to determine where a user is.

Developers can make “geofences” or areas where an action occurs when entered/left/dwelled in. The Starbucks app “nudges” you when within a couple hundred feet of a Starbucks.

Beacon and location technology has gone relatively unchanged for the past few years and the majority of use cases involve stores using these devices to reach out to customers outside of the store through targeted push campaigns. This has resulted in spamming customers with unwanted messages making one thing for certain, if you’re using beacon/proximity technology to send out bothersome push notifications to your customers, you are training your customers to ignore your notifications.

With advancements in machine learning and advertising technology, developers have become able to use customer’s locations in a non-intrusive way by creating more targeted campaigns. For example, people who visit gyms regularly are more likely to open a notification for workout supplements than a fast food regular would. More and more companies are looking to use these targeting practices to reach users on a hyper-local level and create a meaningful, useful, and fun location experiences for their store.

How can Location Tracking and the Service Industry Work Together?

There are a few ways that the service industry and detecting a customer’s location can mingle together in a not-so-creepy way. Network World best explained this when they said, “Location tracking is rapidly becoming normal. It’s just a natural benefit/result of a connected world, and it will unleash a new era of location analytics — for things and people.”

In the service industry this could mean, becoming aware of your customers and what they want in order to increase customer loyalty and create a better experience based on their preferences. Rather than targeting people to “Check out your hot deal” when they’re outside of your place of business, you could look to see what the customer inside your store likes and cater to them in order to create a “WOW” moment for that individual. We call this, “replicating the regular experience.”

Let’s say a customer who has your application is detected walking into your store. Because he already has your application downloaded, you are able to see his purchase history and can treat him as a valued customer with ease. You can call him by name and know his order before he even gets to the register.

This interaction is all about how you present it and is an amazing opportunity to use your customer’s preferences to really nail that 5 star experience by coming up educated recommendations. Through careful planning and a dedicated team, you can have the power in your hand to create an experience that these customers want to tell their friends about.

Location Services on a Citywide Scale

Brick and mortar stores are in a crucial time where they need to be focusing on new and exciting ways to engage their customers. The usual, “train employees to react” can only work for so long in a world where technology is quickly changing everything we know about once stable service industries. In order to keep the charm of brick and mortar alive, these stores need to be proactive in embracing technology and utilizing it to keep their initial vision alive.

Restaurants and retail need proximity technology to work in tandem with a dedicated team to ensure each customer is getting the right experience in a non-threatening way. New citywide advancements in location awareness have given store owners the ability to detect, analyze, and create beautiful experiences for their customers that are not limited to the walls of the store.

If you have yet to enter the world of beacons for proximity detection, we have made it extremely easy for you here.


SONORA Data is a ready to use, developer friendly solution for adding real world context to mobile applications through a city-wide network of IoT devices such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons. We are currently in beta for our Tempe, AZ network.