SITECORE BEACONS

  • By Luke Stephenson
Luke Stephenson

On 30th Jan, a few of our code-junkies locked themselves in a meeting room and set up their battle stations ready to take part in a 24-hour Sitecore hackathon!

For those unfamiliar with the term, a Hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event where computer programmers collaborate intensively on a software project.

3chillies hackathon team

(Above: Picture of team preparing for hackathon)

The team of 3 arrived with Beacons, which were given to us by our partners at Localz!
A beacon is a device which harnesses the power of low energy Bluetooth (BLE 4.0) to communicate with beacon enabled devices within a micro-location. Put more simply, it’s a device that communicates with Bluetooth enabled mobile phones! 

We like the idea of using Beacons to deliver a great customer experience, and they are already being used to provide contextual marketing messages. As it stands, a typical customer journey might look something like this:

Customer installs loyalty app
Customer enters retail outlet.
Customer approaches perfume section, walking through the beacon’s invisible “Geo fence”
Customer receives a message on their phone with a special offer on a perfume X
Customer tries and possibly buys perfume X.
The concept is very powerful and you can see how this technology might be used to effectively shepherd the customer journey. But messaging the customer’s phone when they’re within a certain range doesn’t really allow us to take full advantage of the technology available.

For example, imagine a system which, besides offering the functionality mentioned above, would also store the location information of each customer to a database, and use the information to personalise the customer journey after they’ve left the store!...Interesting stuff.

With that in mind, our idea for the hackathon was simple: To integrate Beacon technology with Sitecore!

beacon(Above: Picture of beacon next to a 10 pence coin for size comparison)
After filling the new whiteboard walls with plans and diagrams, the team got to work creating the idea.

They started by installing the beacons into separate meeting rooms so that they could simulate the movement of a typical customer - moving in and out of the range of each Beacon. This was closely followed by the programmatic integration of the beacons with Sitecore, which would allow the two technologies to communicate with each other at code level.

After approximately 26 development hours and a shed load of testing and tweaking, a working prototype had been created! Here’s what the prototype does:

  • Customer turns on Bluetooth and enables Beacons
  • Customer approaches Beacon 1
  • Beacon 1 picks up the Bluetooth connection and automatically alerts Sitecore
  • Sitecore stores the visit to Beacon 1 in its experience database (creating a new account for unrecognised devices, or adding the visit to an existing profile if the device is already tied to an account
  • Sitecore Rules engine is the utilised to trigger a certain action.

 

So what can we do with all of this advanced marketing power? Well, without wishing to sound cliché, the possibilities are only limited to our imagination.

As an example, imagine a car show room where beacons are fitted to each vehicle. The information collected from those beacons could be very valuable to a car salesman. The rules engine could be set to email the customer inviting them back for a test drive or informing them of special offers on that particular model. Of course, the email they receive would be fully personalised with pictures of their favourite car, which would be based on the amount of time they spent standing next to that beacon in the showroom.

We’re very excited to see how marketers will transition into using Beacon technology to influence both the online and offline customer experience. As for our prototype, who knows what the future holds. We might look to publish the technology to the Sitecore marketplace making it widely available to all, but for now it’s only available to clients who specifically request it.

Want more info on our Sitecore Beacons? Please get in touch.

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