NEW YORK: As more retailers move to install beacons, an industry figure has suggested these could find a role beyond push notifications and significantly improve attribution measurement.

Matthew Davis, VP/marketing at Reveal Mobile, a mobile audience data specialist, pointed out a major problem with current methods of establishing a consumer's location using a smartphone.

The latitude and longitude co-ordinates the phone supplies are nowhere near precise enough, he wrote in Luxury Daily, with around one third correct to only within 100 metres and the remainder even less accurate.

So rather than depend on device data, Davis advocates using beacon data. And with forecasts suggesting that 4.5m beacons may be deployed within the next couple of years, a significant opportunity emerges.

"The Bluetooth beacon becomes the next cookie, or more appropriately, the real-life equivalent of a digital tracking pixel," he said.

"As smartphones bump into these beacons, we see the same behavioural trail form in real-life that we see when people navigate from website to website."

The advantages as he sees it are twofold. Location accuracy is brought down to a matter of a few metres, while the beacon detection operates passively in the background without the need for an app to be opened.

"Campaigns on television, radio, print, website and mobile create more store visits, easily measurable based upon smartphones bumping into beacons," he argued.

For his vision to become a reality, however, beacons will have to become standardised rather than based on manufacturers' proprietary Bluetooth protocols.

The thinking of Walgreens – currently trialling beacons in a number of its Duane Reade outlets – is encouraging in this respect as Abhi Dhar, the pharmacy chain's CIO, understands the value of letting other apps detect the Walgreens beacons, in terms of additional audience data, building retargeting audiences and showing attribution.

"Partnership becomes a crucial element to increasing the ROI of beacon deployments by building bigger audiences for retargeting and attribution," said Davis

Data sourced from Luxury Daily; additional content by Warc staff