It seems everyone is talking about the Internet of Things and what it will enable. Right now, Bluetooth gives us a direct, wireless digital transmission method that we can use to set up smart communication networks between machines. We can create a mesh of communication beacons that transmit information to mobile devices. These are being dubbed personal area networks.
It’s the perfect M2M technology for urban environments – or indeed for a floating city, like the largest passenger ship on the planet, Harmony of the Seas.
Using beacons to improve the customer experience
Beacons are simply digital transmitters that broadcast signals at set intervals over relatively short distances. Smart devices, most often smartphones, can pick up these messages and respond in different ways, depending on the substance of the message.
Beacons can be used to send contextually aware, value-driven messages to consumers to enhance their experiences. The guiding principle, as in all successful modern marketing, is to use it to provide real value, rather than merely sending marketing messages or advertisements.
There are myriad ways that beacon technology can be used to completely transform the customer experience in the travel industry in real, tangible ways. In fact what better environment for a value-rich personal area network than the self-contained small city that is a cruise ship.
Streamlined services on board and across the board
Beacon technology allows one to streamline services to consumers to improve their journeys. This would be the underpinning of the end-to-end improvements in the guest experience on board a cruise liner like Harmony of the Seas that beacon technology would provide. These in turn will lead to improved customer returns for the cruise-liner industry, such as increased revenue, improved brand loyalty and more return business.
By looking more closely at the different facets of a guest’s experience with Harmony of the Seas, we can see how powerfully beacon technology can streamline each one.
Arrival and getting settled
As guests arrive, boarding passes can be automatically loaded on their phones ready for inspection. Beacons can help concierges greet arriving guests by name, accelerate the check-in process for frequent guests, and let housekeeping know when guests are still in the room. Alternatively, guests can skip the check-process entirely and go straight to their rooms, which they will be able to enter by using their cell phones in lieu of “traditional” room keys or cards.
Moving around the ship
Beacons can be used to provide contextually aware notifications to help passengers have a more pleasant travel experience. Everything from directions to a room to how long until the ship docks can be triggered by a beacon.
Beacons can make passengers’ journeys around the Ship even more streamlined, by sending Information to navigational apps to help them find activities and attractions.
Beacons are also a key technology for helping those who are physically challenged. They can, for example, assist visually-impaired guests with audio-based directions and advice when navigating around the ship.
On-board retail, entertainment and rewards
Beacons have many powerful uses within the retail environment. They can be used to entice, inform, transact and retarget.
On-board education and entertainment can become much more interactive with beacon technology. For instance, instead of scanning a QR code to listen to audio, a beacon can call up audio appropriate to a promotional display as a guest approaches, based on the guest’s profile. This implementation can be incredibly easy, yet incredibly effective.
Beacons can be used to inform guests of nearby attractions that are starting soon, with device calendar integration to trigger reminders. Or they can be used to send vouchers to guests as part of rewards programmes, to be received by a smart device app that will then allow the guest to “spend” the rewards elsewhere on the ship.
Deeper insights and more strategic effectiveness for the cruise liner
Data generated through beacon technology can provide deep insight into traveller activity and engagement aboard ship. The cruise-liner industry will better understand how passengers move around, giving them information that can be used to make the experience more engaging and customer-centric.
The cruise-liner industry will also be able to leverage observation data to better design future ships based on a finer-grained understanding of how guests actually use the facilities. The same data will provide more detailed insights into how best to allocate staff around guests’ needs.
These are relatively small examples of how travel companies can use beacons to increase observability. The larger, and more important, opportunity comes at the organisational level, where beacons provide marketers with the missing data needed to assemble a complete view of a traveller’s engagement across channels.