Facebook is giving out free beacons to compete against Yelp and Foursqure

This story originally appeared in this morning’s E-COMMERCE INSIDER.

Facebook announced that retailers can now request beacons for their stores at no cost. (Beacons are small devices that transmit messages to someone’s smartphone if they are in range of the device.)

The offer works as part of Facebook’s Place Tips feature that was rolled out in New York City in January. Place Tips on Facebook shares users’ posts and photos about a retailer while they’re in the store. Facebook is now taking the service nationwide and has posted an application for businesses to request a beacon.

Geotagging is an important capability on Facebook; it allows users to check-in wherever they are and share their location, and it enables Facebook to build more robust customer profiles and sell targeted advertising. In this case, businesses cannot yet use beacons to push ads or discounts to the user’s phone, but they can use the functionality to transmit real customer feedback to customers and influence shopping behaviour.

Place Tips competes directly with Yelp and FourSquare, both of which provide space for customer feedback and reviews. Facebook’s beacons make it easier for consumers to access reviews without having to search for a specific retail location. In addition, the reviews consumers do see come from their Facebook friends, giving the comments more credibility.

For retailers, enabling beacons through Facebook solves a major challenge around this new piece of tech. Beacons typically must be enabled through an app, and the user must have push notifications turned on to see a message. But only a small percentage of consumers actually download a retailer’s own app, and fewer still enable push notifications from these apps. Facebook, on the other hand, has a massive user base, so there’s lots of built-in potential for beacons.

Beacons are about to be much more common in stores. BI Intelligence estimates the number of beacons installed in US stores will rise by 287% on average annually through 2018.

Bii beacon installed base

Also in today’s E-COMMERCE INSIDER:


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