BA takes to beacons

24 September 2014

LONDON: British Airways has become the latest business to embrace beacon technology, introducing it into Terminals 3 and 5 at Heathrow airport, following a short trial at its head office.

Starting in October, those customers using the latest version of the airline's iPhone app will receive 'push notifications' when they arrive at the airport informing them when their gate is open and when the aircraft is boarding.

The Drum reported that BA had overcome one of the barriers to beacon adoption – connecting to wifi – by the simple expedient of delivering a personalised welcome message including the relevant wifi password when customers entered the airport lounge.

Drew Crawley, British Airways' chief commercial officer, welcomed the opportunity to add value to the customer experience. "The potential to optimise mobile and digital technology is endless, but requires a careful balance of adding value without bombarding customers," he said.

That risk was highlighted earlier this year by Neil Stewart, global chief client officer, at media agency Maxus. He related to MediaTel his experience of a trip through Bangkok airport where he was deluged with 63 text messages from retailers in the duty-free area.

"The challenge for using tech in the retail space is refraining from being too intrusive," he said.

Rather than use the technology to send consumers 'targeted 'offers they don't really want, Nick Hirst of adam&eveDDB, recommended being useful in the same way BA is doing. Writing in Admap he offered another airline example from Heathrow – Virgin Atlantic is trialling a service where passengers' mobiles will automatically display their boarding passes as they near security.

Navigation could be even more useful, he suggested, with beacons freeing up sales staff from having to guide people around the store or helping sales staff locate items for customers more quickly.

That may come eventually, but in the short term it seems more likely that retailers will go down the bombardment route. 


Commercial property developer Land Securities has just turned a Leeds mall into what it claims is the "UK's most digitally enabled retail and leisure destination". Tim Hutchinson, who developed the Trinity Leeds app, spoke of retailers being able to "push exclusive content such as special offers, recommendations and even contactless payment".

Data sourced from The Drum, Admap, Internet Retailing; additional content by Warc staff