In the world of Bluetooth LE beacons, there’s a race to the top of the stack. Developers scramble to build services on top of beacons, analytics on top of services, and brilliant user experiences and strategy at the top of the pyramid.
But while others are scrambling, Sonic Notify is already there. With over 14,000 proximity-based beacons already deployed the company knows a thing or two about how to deploy the devices, how to work with partners to create user experiences, and what works (and doesn’t) with the tech.
But Sonic Notify suffers from a reverse identity problem: while it’s still early days, the launch of iBeacon by Apple has put the media’s focus on Bluetooth LE. But that’s barely even half the battle because an in-store solution needs to couple with out-of-store experiences, social media integration, analytics and support for the full range of Android devices.
We’ll rapidly see additional technologies and approaches bolted on: from GPS geofencing which “pass” a user on from location to proximity; to solutions that handle the poor penetration of Bluetooth LE on Android devices; and systems that help manage the back end.
Sonic Notify faced the opposite problem: they already had a scalable solution with full integration of a CMS and analytics engine that was based on (you guessed it) sonic signals. While they embedded Bluetooth LE into their devices before Apple even announced its plans, they still carry the baggage of seeming almost old school: kind of like someone with a big “NFC” shirt at a Bluetooth LE party.
Bluetooth LE is the shiny new kid on the block, but for Sonic Notify it’s one part of a larger story.
“Beacons will have a big impact on adopting proximity-based marketing and apps,” CEO Aaron Mittman tells me. “But there are still two big challenges – providing an experience for users with Android phones, and providing a fully integrated solution. Sonic Notify does both.”
Welcome to the New World, Macy’s
The press seems to be scrambling for superlatives this week over Macy’s adoption of ShopKick’s new ShopBeacon: Bluetooth LE devices that will trigger offers and coupons on a user’s phone.
ShopBeacon adds an audio signal to its devices to achieve much the same effect as Bluetooth LE (although with the significant issue of signal interference brought on by walls). Audio signals help to ‘reach’ Android devices that either don’t have or don’t yet have Bluetooth LE turned ‘on’.
But the technology, which has been a year in development, is no stranger to Sonic Notify which has been working on its own beacons for two years, and has facilitated over a billion transactions and provides a robust back-end CMS and analytics engine.
What’s even better is that while ShopKick has its own approach to offers and coupons, Sonic Notify gives the retailer more power over the kinds of experiences they can create, from the types of beacons they provide to the types of apps that can be developed that integrate with their back end.
Sonic Notify Is a Platform, Not a Beacon
With a range of different devices, Sonic recognizes that it’s not a solution if it’s just a beacon. They have a robust back-end for managing beacons, content and analytics.
“Our back-end solution isn’t just about managing your beacons or posting images that your app can pick up,” said Chad Rodriguez, Head of Partnerships at Sonic Notify. “It’s a full management system that gives our customer analytics and targeted content and promotion management. There’s a misconception, I think, that a ‘back-end’ beacon system is just about managing UUIDs – but you need deep integration with data and meaningful ways to manage the complexities of a customer’s experience to make it compelling and effective.”
And while we haven’t tested it, the back-end sure looks sweet.
It embodies two years of work and deployments in retail, at stadiums and at other large venues.
“One of the things that makes a big difference is the experience you get putting beacons out into the real world,” said Chad Rodriguez. “We’ve been doing this for over 2 years – and what we’ve learned has helped us to constantly improve and refine our technology. They might seem like little things but everything from how your beacon looks to where it’s located in a store can have a huge impact on adoption , retention and user experience. All of our learning is built into our integrated solution.”
So what’s next for Sonic Notify? With companies like ShopKick getting all the buzz from the ‘top end’ and those like Estimote getting all the buzz at the ‘bottom’ for their turtle-shaped Bluetooth LE devices, where does Sonic see itself headed?
With every emerging technology there’s a race to stay current with the latest gizmo or gadget.
“We don’t think there will ever be a single technology driving proximity,” said Aaron. “Today it’s Bluetooth LE, tomorrow it might be how you integrate Google Glass. The challenge is creating a fully integrated solution that makes life easier for your customer and a delight for the user and operationally viable for retailers.”
Which is music to my ears: because at the end of the day the beacons might be the devices that start a revolution, but it’s the user’s experience and the ability to deliver value to the end customer that matters .
They might not be first to the top of the press pile, but Sonic Notify has a lot of firsts under its belt and with the right partners is leading a silent revolution of its own.
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