IoT Primer: Beacon Basics For Retail Analytics

Maybe the joyous reaction of marketers to beacons, low-cost sensors that can communicate with tablets and smartphones, comes from the fact that the word’s spelling is close to bacon – seems to be a lot of memes suggesting that bacon is a favorite food.  But let’s stick to a more straightforward reason:  Marketers are as excited about beacons as a child is excited about Christmas day.

So what is the beacon excitement about? Here’s the run down:

  • The idea of using sensors in commerce started with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. These tags were used in retail and operations mainly for inventory management and shipping identification.
  • Beacons represent the next “evolution” of sensor usage because they can communicate with apps on smart devices.  The apps are activated by shoppers, allowing the device to be picked up by the proximity beacon.  This establishes proximity broadcasting, which means objects can continuously “communicate” information. The devices and sensors communicate in a data broadcasting environment that pairs mobile devices with beacon sensors on a physical item – a display, a store shelf, or in a store location.
  • A network of beacons are popular because mobile-savvy customers have opted-in through using an app provided by a retailer which has beacons placed in a retail space. Smartphones, tablets and laptops already use Bluetooth, so there is a natural usage already primed for beacons acceptance.
  • The latest generation of Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4.0, expands the breadth of beacon sensor capability. It includes metadata association to the objects, allowing objects to essentially broadcast their identity, location, and additional information.  The data shared in this environment gives users valuable information, from on-the-spot announcement of a sales offer to simple assistance in finding the right product selection.
  • All of this plays into the Internet of Things (IoT) environment, in which machines are now communicating signals to each other in a coordinated effort.

Where are beacons being used in retail?

Luxury brands are becoming the first movers in experimenting with beacons as part of an augmented reality strategy. Sephora, a make up provider, announced beta testing beacons in its San Francisco store.  And Burberry uses augmented reality technology in its flagship store in the UK.

So what does beacons mean for analytics?

Beacon-generated data can then be pulled up into a corporate cloud application for tracking and analysis, influencing the business intelligence and the analytics associated with it. Real time analytics that include beacon-sourced referral traffic must consider digital activity over time.  Additional analytic tools highlighting foot traffic patterns can aid where message are being triggered, and facilitate inventory planning.   Integrating the associated metrics mean increased tagging complexity, so marketers must consider what capabilities lie within their tools.

Adoption is still early – eMarketer reports that 29% of retailers have incorporated beacons into their stores.

But as the IoT environment emerges from the budding stages, retailers will learn how to use beacons to determine how well their business model aligns with the customer experience needs.  Customers are demanding sophisticated experiences. Beacons provide the the building block for understanding those experiences.

Analytics Tips: Basic Data Security for Small Businesses

Clicking A Laptop Computer Keyboard
Keeping data secure starts with managing its sources – although these days an Amazon Alexa is just as likely a data source as a keyboard.

With increased amounts of available data collection comes a variety of new ideas to use data to benefit customers and businesses. An often overlooked consideration is the need to be responsible with the gathered data.

The advancement of technology has increased the inadvertent likelihood of releasing Personal Identifiable Information (PII). PII, as defined in Wikipedia, is metadata that can identify, contact, or locate a single person, or identify an individual in context. Examples beyond a person’s name include email address, date of birth, passport number, vehicle registration plate, and driver’s license.

One kind of PII, an IP address, is not PII by itself, but can be considered as critical PII if it is linked to another piece of data. This impact from blending data means businesses must know not just the meta data collected, but how metadata is combined when used. Without care personal identifiable information can become the property of identity thieves, damaging a company’s reputation as well as lives.

Adding to the concern is public scrutiny of technology while its usage and capabilities are evolving agnostic of consequences. Technology can provide good or bad consequences, depending on its application. For example, pop up offers use Javascript code tailored to the cookie session, but links in a pop up offer can also lead to a nefarious site.

So what should a small business do in this challenging environment?

If you run a small business, a few tips about data can some basics a small business can take heed to some basic informations and be aware of how to act.

Audit Data Usage

Auditing data usage within the business reveals how information flows to critical activity — which systems or employees are used regularly, and if so, what analysis is conducted. Employees and processes should be mapped against opportunities that can potentially lead to unintended exposure, such as unintended data access for employees leave the company and removal of outdated data. Ensure that people who no longer should have access to analytic reports are removed. Another useful effort is to audit data relationships where possible. Neo4j, an open source tools, is good example. You can read more about it in the DMN Tech post.

You can also audit how site elements are called each time your website is loaded. A web proxy or “Packet sniffers” such as Charles and Fiddler allow users to view how each site or app elements are loaded into the browser. These tools can also imply where hack attempts have potentially impact site or app performance, slowing down elements.

One bonus tip: Keep an analytic report filtered to the IP addresses of store locations and branch offices. Doing so can help highlight traffic from potential fraud sources.

Establish Data Guidelines and Removal Policy

Establishing guidelines for managing the storage and retrieval of information can encourage employees to level set to agreed procedures minimize shadow copies of information, which can lead to loss data, theft, and miscalculations.

For example, verifying active accounts on email lists can not only eliminate dead email addresses but also detect email addresses which should not receive data and reports. If you are incorporating web analytics tags with monthly email, coordinate a verification of opt-outs when analytic data is regularly reported. The timing of this verification serves as a reminder.

Share Data Policy with Clients and Partners

Your technology and processes keep data secure, but its your policy that establishes how data is used. Let your customers and clients know a policy is in place so that they understand what your business does to protect their information.

When information is requested, make sure there is an opt out procedure for site visitors. They typically seek statements that they are not locked into one vendor. You can also remind them of opt outs for online racking as a convenience. A low percentage of online users exercise the option, but do want the option. Firefox, Chrome, and IE browsers contain a tracking opt-out for users.

Monitor Tech Media Sources for Privacy Regulation News and Assess Its Impact to Your Guidelines

Finally small businesses can follow news from associations wrangling with the downstream impact of legislation as it is considered. Doing so keeps business leaders informed on what impact legislation can have on their operations. For example, the Digital Analytics Association a “Code of Ethics” for analytic practitioners to pledge. The Code of Ethics is a seven point outline of data stewardship meant to establish a working guideline for an organization’s data usage. The pledge was created in 2011 as a response to controversial legislation that contained a wide interpretation of acceptable tracking solutions and could significantly impact digital agencies and corporate marketing departments alike. The most active associations center around media, while the FTC has gradually raised its scrutiny of online activity.

Data security is not only important to data integrity but to business integrity as well. Developing the right processes that match your operation will not only see how to best improve your business but also show your customers your capability in being responsible with their information. Take heed to these tips, and you will save yourself operational headaches, costs, and your company integrity.

What is the right number of visits to begin using analytics? – A brief answer

from the Zimana Instagram account:

What is the right number of visits or sessions needed to begin using analytics reports?

2? 33,483?  Maybe over 120,000?

The answer is none!

Your analytics really begins when planning website and app content alongside the digital marketing media used to build awareness.  In fact, the current trend of customer experience means planning on content and understanding users – not just achieving numbers just to gain numbers.

In fact the biggest mistake small business owners make is delaying their analytics until AFTER a website is launched.   Doing so overlooks maximizing the benefits from the metrics and taking action that can benefit a business for the long haul.

When starting with analytics, concentrate on identifying trends in the data first rather seeking hard numbers.  Those trends can highlight where marketing and operational resources in your business should be directed.

Analytics Tips: How non-techies can monitor branding for small businesses and non-profit organizations

Google Analytics Affinity Reports
Reports like Affinity Report can be set in the dashboard for quick referral of traffic quality.

Monitoring your brand. It’s a phrase brought up by marketers, yet no one thinks about how non profits or non technically inclined individuals should be monitoring their “brand” online.

Why is this overlook important? Well, the definition of a brand is ”how others remember you”. In general you are asking the public to remember you – for a donation, for purchase a service, or for purchase from your inventory when your nearby competitor has the same product (and these days, everyone online is a nearby competitor!).

So let’s assume that you have added a Google Analytics account to your website. If so, you’re half way to monitoring your data and your brand. To get that other essential half, try the following few starter ideas for digging into the reports without getting too overwhelmed.

  • Schedule a reporting time – minimum once a month review with the analytics reports. Expect more frequency if you are using paid search or other budgeted media for marketing.
  • Set Goals in your analytics account – Set the pages and webpage actions that relate the site to your objectives.
  • Set visits by geography if your business or nonprofit is covering a specific region. Geography reporting can be the easiest to understand, if your business is marketed to certain regions. Review if traffic consistently lined up with where the business is marketing.
  • Look for trends over time. Examining where data comes from will narrow down what actions to take to strengthen or adjust.
  • Look at affinity reports to see what other topics of interest that attracts visitors and are receiving your visitors after they have visited your site. The reports can spark ideas for Adwords campaigns by lifestyle to sites that are suitable partners for increasing exposure to your site and brand.
  • If you are receiving regular reports from an analytic practitioner, ask for the meaning behind a report or metric definition. They should be following along your business at some level, and making .

Infographic – #InternetofThings Primer by AIG

Internet of things - aig

This infographic covers some of the basic benefits that are expected from the Internet of Things era.   Dr Shawn DuBravac created the infographic for AIG.

One interesting note is the cost reduction on devices – the infographic notes how accelerometer devices have dropped in average cost from $7 to just 50 cents.

This expected trend of lowered costs was also mentioned in during Joichi Ito’s presentation at the O’Reilly Solid conference, a media event that covers the latest Internet of Things innovations. Ito is the director of MIT Media Labs, a facility which specializes in technology research.  He is a leading thinker and writer on innovation, global technology policy, and the role of the internet in transforming society.

You can read about the Solid conference in these posts for CMSWire (see Finding Solid Ground in the IoT Era) and for Small Business Trends ( Ways Your Small Business Can Capitalize on the Internet of Things).  You can also check out the video of Its’s Solid Conference presentation How Bio Is The  New Digital .