From Retail to Manufacturing, Beacons Help Businesses Connect with Customers

beacon illustration

By Stephanie Van Ness


As beacon technology, a type of proximity or location technology, gains traction globally more companies are looking for interesting and effective ways to use it to get closer to customers of all varieties. From museums to retail shops to sports arenas, businesses are looking to beacons to provide a tailored user experience and highly relevant messaging at just the right moment.

About Beacons

Beacons are small devices that broadcast low-energy Bluetooth signals to passing smartphones (and similar devices), sending pre-programmed marketing messages, sales promotions or other personalized content to individual users as that person walks within range. 

Here’s how it might work. A sporting goods store attaches a beacon to a product display featuring the latest trail-running shoes. A shopper (with a Bluetooth-capable phone) walks nearby, triggering the beacon. Instantly, the shopper receives a coupon for 30% off the premium hiker.

While that scenario is hypothetical, here’s a look at ways businesses in a variety of industries are actually putting the technology to work.


Retailers were among the first to adopt beacon technology. In fact, analysts predict that over the next five years, 70% of retailers will use beacons. Why? Business journalist Deena M. Amato-McCoy suggests that the tech could be “the best chance for retailers to re-connect with their customers because the shoppers’ loyalty becomes increasingly hard to cultivate, in an omnichannel crowded world, where people tend to reject all types of outbound impersonal approaches.”

Hudson’s Bay Company deployed beacons with department-specific campaigns at several of its Lord & Taylor stores. The beacons are triggered when a shopper is in proximity of the department. In some departments, customers receive a deep-discount coupon for certain items — a coupon that contains a “reveal code” tied to the beacons to help Hudson’s Bay track their effectiveness.

Rhode Island’s Alex and Ani relies on beacons to optimize store layouts and product placement. Instead of promoting flash sales, a common use of the tech, Alex and Ani use beacons to deliver targeted information that educates shoppers about its jewelry, as well as capture consumer analytics.


MLB ballparks, NHL hockey rinks, and other professional and collegiate athletic facilities are using beacons as part of location-based marketing programs intended to improve fan experience. In fact, half of all NHL arenas use beacon technology, a number that climbs to 93% for MLB stadiums.

Sure, they’re using the tech to hawk concession fare. But beacons also are being used in a number of other ways to enhance the fan experience. For instance, at some stadiums beacons send notifications that offer ticket holders the opportunity to upgrade their seats during the game. Didn’t buy a premium seat but having trouble tracking the ball from your spot way up in the rafters? Grab that offer for a courtside upgrade and spend the fourth quarter close enough to hear the players’ trash talk. In 2015, the Orlando Magic offered seat upgrades via beacon tech that generated an extra $1M in ticket sales.


A number of banks, including Citibank and Barclays use beacons to send customers personalized, location-based messages and tailored notifications about products or services when they enter a branch. Last year, Citibank installed beacons at some of its Manhattan branches to allow customers card-free access to ATM lobbies when the bank was closed.


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is testing beacon tech as a way to help visually impaired riders easily find bus stops by installing beacons on signs near the Perkins School for the Blind. Communicating with a smartphone app, the beacon tells riders how close they are to the actual bus stop so they don’t end up waiting too far down the street.


Businesses like The Lake Companies are using beacons to give facility managers a big-picture view of operations and real-time production information specific to whatever location a supervisor might be on the shop floor. For instance, as a manager walks around the production floor his tablet receives signals from the beacons and automatically updates key performance information — data that helps the manager make good decisions in real time.


The Rubens House Museum in Antwerp, Belgium uses beacons to help visitors locate specific pieces of art, as well as send notifications to educate people about the stories behind the various paintings.


While many companies use beacons simply to serve up personalized, time-sensitive content via smartphone, ViewPoint uses beacons as part of a comprehensive digital experience that allows an individual to take a customized journey through a specific organization.

What does that mean? Imagine you’re a University-based cancer researcher visiting a global life sciences company to learn about the latest discoveries in your field. During your visit, you want to learn about the cutting-edge research this company is doing in your area of study, as well as explore the company’s newest products.

The company gives you a beacon to attach to your visitor’s pass and you head to the main lab. When you enter, the beacon in the lab recognizes you and presents a personalized welcome message on a large screen. Then the screen displays information specific to your area of interest — without you requesting it.

It also directs you to a nearby touchscreen kiosk, which is loaded with even more tailored and highly relevant content. You can touch and swipe the screen to consume the information in whatever way makes sense to you.

For additional information you can explore the interactive product showcase, which displays physical products on a beacon-enabled touch table. The beacon recognizes when you pick up a certain item and displays relevant information about that item right on the tabletop. Again, it’s interactive so you can manipulate the content in a way easiest for you to absorb. Seen enough? As you leave the lab, triggering your beacon, the main welcome screen offers a personalized departure message.

Though initially viewed as simply a tool for retailers to promote a sale or provide product information in-store, beacons have been embraced by businesses in a spectrum of industries looking for new and clever ways to better connect with their customers.

 If you’re interested in creating a digital journey of your own, give ViewPoint a call at 800.552.3700.

Stephanie Van Ness

Assoc. Director of Marketing and Chief Storyteller at ICS, Boston UX and ViewPoint Interactive Solutions

An experienced copywriter with a Boston University J-school degree, Stephanie Van Ness writes about user experience (UX) design and innovations in technology, from self-driving vehicles to gesture-controlled medical devices. Her work has appeared in a number of industry publications, including Medical Design & Outsourcing, Mass Device, Connected World,Medical Device + Diagnostics, UX Collective and Prototypr.