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IBeacon implementation at Bonnaroo suggests future improvements for live events

Bonnaroo, an annual four-day music festival, spread more than 100 iBeacons across key ingress and egress points, campgrounds and main entryways this month to provide organizers and sponsors access to usage data following the event. 

Designed by Aloompa, the iBeacon deployment helped aid the festival in improving attendee experience, created an interactive experience for users with non-intrusive proximity based messaging, and laid the groundwork for real-time crowd heat mapping.

?To receive the most up-to-date information and announcements from an event, attendees have traditionally had to rely on push notifications to deliver those,? said Drew Burchfield, founder of Aloopma. ?Since push notifications typically go to a larger group of people, they need to be very general in nature.

?Beacons allow an event to now deliver similar messages as users are walking by a certain point on site such as an entrance, water station, parking lot, etc.

?We see the biggest areas of enhancement being the relevancy factor that beacons bring to the table. Another big area is giving insight to festivals on the current status of certain areas such as gate wait times,? he said.

Compelling conclusions
At events, many of the use cases on the consumer side for beacons are serving the consumers instead of trying to encourage them to buy something. From a functional perspective, the capabilities are the same, but from a consumer's perspective, the festival experience has already been paid for, so the vested interest is in enhancing this.

For the system to work, Bonnaroo attendees needed to install a native app on their iOS-based device. Bonnaroo discovered that certain conditions create obstacles in beacon functionality - for example, beacons placed in a bush or a fountain inhibit communication, and that proximity based messaging is much more efficient than traditional broadcast push notifications that go to every app user.

Bonnaroo was able to control the messaging based on how the attendees behaved rather than using blanket messages that may not be relevant for everyone.

One hurdle they found technology faces is the fact that iOS users have to say yes to two prompts in the app (one system and one app related) as well as keep the background refreshed and bluetooth turned on just to have the chance to interact with iBeacons.

Although marrying a device to the beacon network is not yet seamless, the user side of the technology allows for a new way of looking back - a "retrospective itinerary" that shows users where they were, who they were with, and when they were there. No longer limited to looking at photos and rereading Tweets, festival-goers can now relive their experience in a truly innovative way.

?Our biggest challenge at the moment is the temporal nature of an event and the quantity of beacons we end up deploying,? Mr. Burchfield said. ?Many implementations of beacons in the world are either small in quantity or permanent installations.?

?Large temporal deployments have their unique challenges.

?Staying sharp on the perpetual innovation in the space is our second big challenge long term at the moment,? he said.

Different implications
One of the biggest concerns regarding iBeacons is whether or not the experience will become intrusive for users. Marketers run the risk of frustrating consumers and the potential deletion of an app.

However many retailers have honed their approach and execution and have witnessed app and ad engagements skyrocket. A recent study by inMarket found that beacon deployments which complement users? preferred experiences lead to more in-store usage, brand engagement and app retention.

Over a 30-day period in April-May 2014, 25,000 shoppers using inMarket?s Mobile to Mortar enabled apps interacted with advertised products at an increased rate of 19 times when receiving a beacon message. Moreover, in-store app usage was 16.5 times greater for users who received a beacon message and those shoppers were 6.4 times more likely to keep an app on their phone, versus those who did not.

The end result is consumers will need to spend less time figuring out what the best purchase decision is, and showrooming will be now an opportunity to convert interest and intentions to purchases while in the store.

Targeted offers are also a critical ingredient in acquiring repeat customers.

As consumer purchasing power rises, obtaining new customers may be difficult with the flood of money-saving apps. Consumer connectedness to online and mobile applications facilitates a real-time feeling of fulfillment at the point-of-sale, which couponing giant, RetailMeNot, intends to focus on.

Its advertising and marketing agreement with Circuit of the America?s stadium enables RetailMeNot to promote its services to more than a million fans attending events at the new motorsport and entertainment venue.

RetailMeNot?s evolution into event-driven marketing will use existing data gathered from a customer?s background and purchases to analyze and predict specific moments to offer special promotions from brands including Anheuser-Busch, Best Buy, Pepsi and Red Bull.

Winning the path to purchase is becoming more difficult for retailers as they attempt to angle and predict the ebb and flow of consumers who are now the leaders of omni-channel trends. Location intelligence offered by beacons can tell retailers customer wants and needs in the moment and by pairing this information with customer profiles, retailers can create a holistic experience.

The San Francisco Giants installed 19 devices in mid-February at all fan entry and exit points of the ballpark, and the LA Dodgers reportedly have nearly 65 iBeacons, per the MLB. Geo-location tools allow sports and live-event organizations to get more creative in how they target fans.

iBeacons in-stadium

This includes looking at how long someone stays in one location, how often they visit the venue, and what purchases they made. One thing that could theoretically be done with beacons is optimizing the flow of lines or traffic. Bonnaroo?s feedback and conclusions suggests this is one area that could be correlated from a big data perspective by understanding how people were behaving at the time.

?We will be the first to say that we don?t know what the future holds with beacons, but what we can see is the value of proximity based and contextual interactions,? Mr. Burchfield said.

?We see a blend of hardware on various devices that you own, or receive just for the day, interacting with each other to give you a better experience at an event and give the festival insight on how to make you happier while you are there.?

 Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York