Facebook Makes Retail Beacons Available for Free

Re/Code reported yesterday that Facebook is expanding its Place Tips program and  making free beacons available to retailers. The program, first tested in Brooklyn 6 months ago, installs a beacon into the local business and pushes current posts and photos for the business to your phone while you are in that location.

If you are standing in line at a participating retailer and engage with Facebook you will see “more info about places you visit, including your friends’ photos, experiences and moments from that place” and be prompted to like the business’s Facebook page.

fb-exampleAccording to Engadget you will experience “a “tip” notification for the place that you’re at when you launch Facebook. Tap it, and it’ll show a series of cards about the place. Not only will you see the aforementioned posts and photos from your friends, but you’ll also see basic info about the business”.

While the capabilities of the program are currently somewhat limited from the retailer POV and no advertising is permited, it pushes the retailer posts directly to the users stream and is delivered on an opt out basis to users. The potential seems huge given Facebook’s reach.

Facebook determines your location with a combination of cellular networks, Wi-Fi, GPS and Facebook Bluetooth® beacons. For now Place tips are limited to the Facebook app for the iPhone and Location services must be enabled for place tips to work.

This marks the first time that beacon technology to interact with customers is being made available at scale to every business. While it might not appeal to a Macy’s that can implement their own beacon hardware and software stack, it now makes the option available for every Mom & Pop to participate with in-store customer interactions.   And I see no reason why even Macy’s would not use the Facebook program to compliment their own. As such this makes the program important. Facebook is the first to push the technology out to such a broad audience.

Here is the form to request your free beacon. I would love to hear from folks that implement or have implemented this with your observations.

Update: Sandro was kind enough to provide a screen shot of Facebook’s SMB promotional push along this front:



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Facebook Makes Retail Beacons Available for Free by

14 thoughts on “Facebook Makes Retail Beacons Available for Free”

  1. “While the capabilities of the program are currently somewhat limited from the retailer POV and no advertising is permited” ……FOR NOW.

    As I tweeted yesterday, I see this as a HUGE Trojan Horse for Facebook to build its own real-world geo-aware advertising network. My guess is they either CHARGE a business to geofence its location in the future or simply any business to advertise to a user at all times based on his/her location or location history. It’s piggybacking on the backs of merchants to save huge $$ on the cost of deployment.

    How tall is my tin-foil hat getting? Too tall?

  2. @David
    I don’t see it as a Trojan Horse so much as the cavalry with 8 million horses… and consumers as the foot soldiers. This is a full on frontal attack.

    -First rollout consumer friendly, hyper local content
    -That SMBs would be crazy not to embrace
    -And then do the Facebook thing of gradually weening the business off of getting all of that value for free.

  3. Can’t leave a graphic here, but we saw a notice at the top of two of our clients’ FB pages yesterday morning. It read:
    Special Invitation: Get a free Facebook Bluetooth Beacon for your business. As one of the top local Pages in the US, your business is one of the first few we’ve selected for exclusive early access to the Facebook Bluetooth beacon program, which gives you new ways to connect with customers.

    You can view a screenshot in a tweet I posted yesterday https://twitter.com/azrael/status/607977200516755457

  4. Mike, I think we combine our two analogies and we have (ba-bada-ba!) the Trojan Cavalry.

    (I meant that an individual beacon in a mom-and-pop store was a trojan horse 🙂 )

  5. @David
    Its a powerful combo that any number of companies could have done (Paypal Google come to mind) but none have.

    I know that Twitter and even Square have something similar but they don’t have the scale needed to pull this off.

  6. Hmmm. I noticed we got that notice for the above referenced business plus two others. (I suppose standards are pretty low….;)

    From the article I noticed it didn’t include reviews. OH OH OH MY.

    If you review a business in FB it doesn’t go on your timeline. Your FB friends and family don’t see it off your time line.

    FB is the “mystery” of reviews. Reviews on FB would be killer promotional. But they don’t show. Of course that is a part of FB’s program to monetize off of smbs. If your reviews showed in the number one social media forum to your expanded FB friends and then their friends….why oh why oh why would you ever advertise in FB??? And what would be the purpose of shrinking and cutting off engagement from your business page’s posts?

    I suspect they’ll monetize off this stuff down the line. Meanwhile FB is a mobile monster.

    We’ll take advantage of this while its free. Though from what I read its only applicable in certain parts of NYC right now.

    Speaking of reviews from Friends and Family. Did you guys read about Apple purchasing Spotsetter That is a killer social/ review type of site that pulls info from your friends and contacts plus info from the web.

    So if you were hanging in some desolate rural backwoods of a location and happened to run into some local bar….you could check it out in spotsetter and you might find that some of your friends enjoyed the beer, the wings, the sports on TV and other items in the local bar; Then you’d find what the public at large thinks…and you’d feel better about walking in.

  7. As an aside, I know the beacon is completely different, but two of our restaurant clients have wireless routers w fb software on it. Guests can use the wi-fi free, but have to check in on FB first. Clients are happy with it, has gained them new fans organically.

  8. Mike:

    I see the screen shot and the reviews. But my question is…will they show reviews on this mechanism???? They don’t put it on a personal time line. That is deliberate. Meanwhile they purposefully cut back on fb engagement to followers.

    ….and they are making more money!!!!! On pages we manage we get endless and consistent reminders to “promote the page”. Endless.

    Well once this gets more popular we’ll see about the reviews thing.

  9. This idea is very good, because it helps users and businesses and, most importantly so that users can see and evaluate the quality of services and the places where they are located.

  10. I’m not sure that if you’re a retail shop you want people spending their time on Facebook instead of shopping. And often shoppers are coming in for a particular reason and aren’t surfing the web while located what they need. People might go online while in line, I suppose, but then they already have the items they’re buying in their cart or hands and probably won’t leave the line to go find something they just saw on Facebook.

  11. Wow this is really exciting. It’s would seem it’s effectively bringing digital technology to the outside retail market. This idea is very interesting particularly as mobile technology is already affecting the way we shop. I can definitely imagine the future of retail shopping being further influenced by technology.

    Also taking Facebook aside for a moment, if people were able to use this kind of thing whilst shopping, we might find it enhances our shopping experience. For example if someone is in a shopping mall and are looking for a specific item I see in the future people would be able to quickly search for their product on their mobile device before entering a busy storefront.

  12. It would be fun to try out this beacon and especially when it is free. It would be great to know about various places and our friends experiences there. This is taking presence technology to another level and make it more beneficial for the users.

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