Smart cities: Digital Social Retail becomes the first company to deploy beacons throughout an entire city

Beacon technology has emerged as a game-changer in the world of proximity marketing, allowing businesses, organizations, schools, event coordinators and a number of others connect with individuals nearby. In an isolated setting, these devices have already begun to make an impact: Retailers can more easily attract customers, event participants can obtain useful information at short notice, companies can align their marketing materials across media and so on.

But perhaps the most exciting and potentially disruptive attribute beacons possess is something that has, until recently, gone untested: their performance at scale. In other words, how might beacon technology influence consumption habits and information dissemination if it were used across, say, an entire city?

That's a challenge Digital Social Retail has taken on, becoming the first company to distribute its beacon technology across St Etienne, France, and in other larger-scale settings. Thus far, the results have been promising.

How has one French city boosted engagement?
How has one French city boosted engagement?

Saint-Étienne, France, gets a beacon tech makeover
Digital Social Retail recently deployed beacon technology throughout St Etienne, France – the first time a city has been completely outfitted with the devices. It remains to be seen exactly how this partnership will play out, but so far, the company and the city have high expectations.

That's because beacons provide a more intimate, specific channel through which organizations and their audience can communicate. That's great when it's just one store leveraging the technology, but at scale, the effect creates a better-connected, more efficient, smarter city. Digital techniques like beacon marketing has only begun to make the leap from a person-to-person or business-to-consumer platform to one that can connect multiple people with several other entities. This project in St Etienne will demonstrate how that can take place and how the modern city may soon look. Consider a few examples:

  • Always informed: Individuals will be aware of events, alerts, and other noteworthy items on a regular basis and up to the minute no matter where they are in the city.
  • A better shopping experience: Consumers who are out and about can turn on their device's wireless proximity sensors to determine which of their preferred stores has the best deal any given day.
  • Better analytics: Through Bluetooth-enabled beacons, the city will have a wealth of information at its disposal that it can use to plan more efficient operations and identify patterns and trends – where traffic is most likely to form, which days see more people out and about, and so on.

Those are just a few of the ways beacons might positively influence day-to-day life in modern St Etienne, but the beauty of beacon technology is that it can be more than just a marketing platform – as Digital Social Retail demonstrated with other beacon technology partners.

Beacons integrate in more ways than one
Not long ago, Digital Social Retail also broke ground by providing beacon technology at Israel's Masters tournament, a world-class golf competition. By positioning beacons throughout the course, spectators were able to stay informed in real time about players' scores, progress through the match and related events and logistical information. In a way, outfitting a golf tournament with beacon technology is similar to doing so across a city – it brings an interconnected network across a large area and incorporating hundreds of people. All the platform requires is a smartphone with Bluetooth connectivity on one end and a beacon on the other. It proved a simple but remarkably effective tactic for spreading information.

Digital Social Retail leveraged a similar proximity marketing device strategy in its partnership with France's top business school, ESSEC, and to create the first online street in France. With smart city technologies, nearly any social landscape can become part of an online network.

Additionally, there is the potential for beacons to function as a component of a standalone app for a business or event. That would combine the simplicity and efficacy of a beacon notification with the broader functionality and engagement of an app – providing even more channels of communication.

As Digital Social Retail and St Etienne work on their partnership, your company and organization can explore how beacon technology can help audience engagement.

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Digital Social Retail and ESSEC Business School of Paris, France, have announced the first partnership of its kind, bringing beacon technology and a mobile app to an entire university, in this case two separate campuses.With a number of exciting digital market technologies on the rise, marketers would be well-served to create a strategy that leverages the most effective tools.