Today, Matt Asay (VP of mobile for Adobe) wrote an interesting article for ReadWriteWeb, stating "retail beacons still have a long way to go."
As far as that generic statement goes, I'm not sure I agree. There still is not one standard in the marketplace for beacons and no wide support for existing ones, so they have a ways to go in that area. From a standpoint of technology and functionality, beacons work.
The fact that beacons require an app (downloaded to the user's device) to work has been a major barrier to adoption.
There are some interesting advancements with Google's uriBeacons, which can pass more information than simply an I.D. and power. I still think consumers are not sure what to do with beacons and the requirement of an application downloaded to the device to really be useful has been a major barrier to adoption.
In the article, Asay refers to a survey conducted by Adobe about beacons, as well as projections made by BI Insider. He notes that the reason they haven’t taken off isn’t for a lack of interest –- “it’s because enterprises still struggle to know how to deploy them effectively.” He suggests enterprises “need to get serious about mobile,” by funding it and turning the beacon theory into practice.
I agree: Everyone is talking about beacons but most companies still do not have a strong mobile strategy and presence. Beacons are kind of the next step once you have your consumers using your mobile app. The first step is having a useful mobile app and then making it more useful through the contextual awareness that beacons can deliver. Companies in the best place to realize these changes would be social networks like such Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (yes, owned by Facebook). Their apps are already on most people's devices. The trick would be to realize the benefit of being hyper-aware of contextual location.
Here's what will tip beacons forward: a tremendous investment in physical/digital experiences.
So now what? Asay says enterprises need to invest more in beacons to tip them forward; I'm saying apps that already have mass adoption need to incorporate beacons to tip them forward. He says chicken and I say egg.
I don’t think a tremendous investment in beacons is required per se but a tremendous investment in physical/digital experiences is required. The beacon is simply the thing that lets the device know that it is near something and, as such, acts as a trigger. This trigger could very well be a QR code as well. What is missing is the physical to digital experience that consumers will clamor to use. Once there is a valid use case for beacons, we are likely to see their use explode. That is, unless something better comes along first.