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Hundreds of businesses, including hospitality brands, in New York City are testing Facebook Bluetooth beacons, which are wireless devices at business locations that push offers and events to customers’ smartphones.
Facebook announced earlier this year that it would roll out these beacons, which enable businesses to tap into content from visitors Facebook friends and make the hotel, restaurant or other businesses’ physical space more social, so to speak. Through a bluetooth connection, brands have the ability to connect with people on-site by welcoming them and serving up deals along with curated content from shoppers’ Facebook family and friends to their News Feeds.
“Hundreds of businesses in New York City are testing beacons, and now we’re expanding their availability to small- and medium-sized businesses across the U.S.,” a Facebook spokesperson says. “Local businesses that have tried Place Tips [content that the businesses are push via Facebook Bluetooth beacons] have seen a steady uptick in page traffic from in-store visitors.”
Facebook has not disclosed which hospitality brands are beta testing this product.
One business that is using Facebook Bluetooth is the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien New York. It is only active at the restaurant.
“We were excited by the technology,” says Lisa Tharp, director of guest communications at Le Parker Meridien. “It was great to have a tailored message because it creates a bit of excitement. You can share their experience and photos and it comes full circle because you can see your friends’ photos too as you wait on line.”
“But for us, it has been hard to see the real impact and identify which guests are using Place Tips,” Tharp adds.
The use cases for travel brands can be far-reaching. Hotels can treat their guests as they enter the lobby with a free glass of wine and pair the offer with stories about their friends loving the workout room or the pool; airports can help flyers who are early or stranded navigate themselves to live shows in the terminal with posts about the destinations their friends traveled to, and destinations can play concierge by providing visitors at popular attractions with discounts at nearby restaurants, gift shops, museums and theaters.
The Facebook visits from the beacon product is nothing to get excited about. What is noteworthy is the potential return on investment. For example, guests might redeem their free wine and then buy a drink or two at the hotel bar. To track and measure this conversion, the hotel’s point of sale system would need to talk to Facebook’s API. Needless to say, there is much work to be done and obstacles to remove in integrating these two touch points.
In the past year, some airlines and hotels have experimented with beacon technology. Marriott rolled out LocalPerks to some 15 properties; Copenhagen Airport got rid of print ads and replaced them with video screens to show relevant ads to passing passengers; Tourism and Events Queensland rolled out an app that relies on geofencing to promote tailored blog posts about what to see and do.
The fact that Facebook Bluetooth allows businesses to essentially provide timely and relevant information through its existing app will allow brands without apps to personalize the customer experience on-site. Brands with already existing apps may have to revisit its use case.