Want in on a little secret that could make or break your standing with the growing segment of tech-savvy shoppers in your area? It goes like this:

If your dealership doesn't take marketing beacon technology seriously, you might as well send interested shoppers right back out the front door and into your competition's showroom.

Admittedly, not too many members of the automotive community think it's a good idea to lead off a new blog post with a statement that talks about seeing customers end up in the hands of rival dealerships. However, if you stick around for a bit, we'll be more than happy to show you exactly why this declaration regarding marketing beacons is right on the money.

But first, let's run through a quick thought experiment.

Go ahead and walk out onto your showroom floor and service department waiting area. As you look around at the customers - and potential future car buyers - in your dealership, what do all of these people have in common? If you noticed that the majority of them had their faces buried in their smartphones, then you can probably already see where we're going with this point.

The fact of the matter is that the Internet doesn't stay at home anymore - and neither does Bluetooth functionality and other technological advances. This means that if you're not prepared to build an in-store experience that takes advantage of this cultural shift (in this case marketing beacons), then you're letting countless sales and outreach opportunities go to waste.

Fortunately for you, after reading over our breakdown of this smartphone-centric and location-specific marketing tactic, you'll have all the insight you need to get with the times and make the most out of the continuing importance placed on mobile technology by your target audience of interested car shoppers.

The Quick and Dirty Marketing Beacon Primer

If all of this talk about marketing beacons, smartphones, and Bluetooth sounds Greek to you, then it's probably worth stepping aside for a moment and bringing you up to speed with what these devices are and how they work. To help us out, let's check in with CIO's James A. Martin.

"Beacons are small, battery-powered, always-on devices that use [Bluetooth Low Energy] technology to transmit signals to devices, such as smartphones and tablets, within a range of about 300 feet."
- James A. Martin, CIO

As Martin points out, a beacon is actually a relatively simple piece of technology. All you need for a successful beacon interaction to occur is an enabled transmitter (complete with a relevant promotional message to broadcast), a beacon-friendly app, and a showroom full of smartphone-toting customers.

Going a step farther, beacon technology is one of the few "set it and forget it" tactics found in the modern marketing landscape. Once one of these devices starts broadcasting, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy this newfound channel of interaction with your audience until you're ready to roll out a new campaign.

"They send out a signal. They're unaware of themselves and any other devices around them... They're just sending out these [Bluetooth Low Energy] packets and saying 'Hey, I'm here, see me, take action if you want.'"
- Patrick Leddy, CEO of Pulstate

If you're interested in digging a little deeper into the specifics of this technology, mobile marketing firm Pulstate's chief executive officer (CEO) Patrick Leddy has a great breakdown of the beautiful simplicity of beacons via an engaging and easy-to-follow whiteboard video.

Why Should You Care about Marketing Beacons?

Now that we've gone over exactly what a beacon is, it's time to answer an even more important question: Why should your dealership bother with this technology in the first place? After all, if you're already leveraging a ton of other marketing tactics (search advertising, newspaper spots, etc.), isn't that good enough?

While there's no denying that this line of thought is appealing in its own way, the truth of the matter is that to be a truly successful player in your marketplace, your dealership needs to interact with shoppers from a variety of different angles - especially once these potential customers step foot through your front door.

Oh, and we almost forgot to mention the fact that utilizing beacons during the shopping experience is a super effective way to boost sales. Don't believe it? Then let's go over some numbers from around the web that show just how serious we are with this claim.

First up is Marketing Tech Blog founder Douglas Karr and his breakdown of the general impact of beacon technology on today's consumer:

  • 72 percent of consumers point to a relevant offer delivered to their smartphone via a beacon as something that would significantly influence their purchase decision.
  • 79 percent of all shoppers who received a push notification on their smartphone in the past six months made at least one purchase as a result of this event.
  • 80 percent said they would use a mobile app/beacon system while shopping if this tool delivered relevant sales and promotional notifications.
  • 62 percent noted that they would use this technology more often if it provided them with content that was relevant to their interests and current location.

If we drill down to a more automotive-centric perspective, the results keep pointing toward a future defined by marketing beacons on the showroom floor. Specifically, Vince Bond Jr. of Automotive News reports that automakers who leveraged beacons embedded with a specific call to action (CTA) - test drive offers, gift card promotions, etc. - enjoyed a conversion rate of 35 percent in response to these transmissions.

"Rather than push her deals and offers, she is using this in-store technology to pull more information about the product. The nearby beacon is also measuring how much time she spent standing near the convertible."
- Michael Glass, iMedia Connection

Moving away from the stats for a moment and looking at the actual event surrounding a customer's usage of beacon technology on your showroom floor also helps explain why this outreach method is so effective. The big key here, according to Michael Glass of iMedia Connection, is that these tools create a "pull" event for users, thereby skipping over unwanted or pushy sales tactics and allowing already engaged shoppers to interact with your content on their own terms.

It also doesn't hurt that beacons are powerful sources of incoming consumer data and insight - two resources that can really supercharge your dealership's ability to optimize and refine its in-store shopping experience, as well as its activity within other marketing and outreach channels.

By this point, we've put all of this insight together and created a message that is straightforward and clear: Customers want you to leverage beacons and enhance their shopping experience. Now it's just a matter of whether or not your dealership is ready and willing to join the cutting edge of the marketing world and adopt this technology.

Uncovering Future Bonds with Your Target Audience

In terms of actually unleashing the power of beacon technology within the walls of your dealership, there are quite a few angles of attack to consider. To help get your creative juices flowing on this front, here are a few ideas and suggestions regarding the implementation of this tech from Street Fight magazine's Stephanie Miles:

  • Host an Interactive Promotion - Having special promotions or incentives at each beacon in your dealership can reward individuals who explore your lot or showroom floor, as well as bring in additional foot traffic when this campaign is successfully cross-promoted via existing outreach channels.
  • Automate Customer Check-ins - Social proof is all the rage in today's digital world, so why not make it easy for visitors to your dealership to check-in on Facebook, Foursquare, and all of the other relevant networks? Miles points out that even something as simple as a single push notification prompt that fires off to passing customers can increase your engagement with prospective car buyers by up to 30 percent.
  • Lay out a Heat Map of Your Dealership - collecting consumer data via beacons is a great way to develop a heat map of your showroom floor and find out exactly where visitors gravitate to when they stop in for a visit. From here, reworking your floor plan or layout to take advantage of these areas of high interaction can take your customer experience to the next level.

Of course, these tactics are merely scratching the surface when it comes to the potential held within this technology. Once you're ready to really start pushing the envelope with your beacon strategy, more advanced opportunities can help differentiate your dealership experience from the rest of the competition:

  • Incorporate Hyper-Targeted Messaging - Beacons are naturally built around a localized experience, but what if you're able to hone this concept down to an even more precise approach? A powerful example of this idea in action comes in the form of releasing special financing offers, cash-back discounts, or additional vehicle information to an interested shopper as he or she reads over a new car window sticker.
  • Enhance the Customer Service Experience - Nobody likes a pushy salesperson breathing down his or her neck. However, with marketing beacons deployed across your dealership, these tools can periodically connect with customers and offer additional assistance. If the customer wants to chat with one of your reps, then a member of your staff will be ready and waiting to connect with this engaged shopper.
  • Leverage "One of a Kind" Connections - With Google Glass and a variety of other peripherals redefining how customers consume information, the sky is the limit in terms of how you can set up your marketing beacon strategy to engage and interact with these cutting edge devices.

In all honesty, we could go on and on until we're blue in the face with different examples of beacons in action - but chances are that by now you're picking up on just how flexible and effective this technology can be when leveraged on behalf of your dealership.

The Future of On-Site Interaction (Whether You Are Ready for It or Not)

If you're somehow still sitting on the fence with this one, let's be very clear about one thing: All of this talk about beacons on your showroom floor isn't purely a discussion of "what-ifs" and vague possibilities that lurk somewhere in "the near future." As Mobile Commerce Daily's Brielle Jaekel notes, AutoTrader is already helping dealerships integrate marketing beacons into their daily operations. Adding in Ford's similar plans to experiment with beacons at select locations just drives the point home even farther and ensures that adopting this technology won't fall under the "optional" designation for much longer.

Now that all of that is out of the way, we can safely say that you've successfully been brought up to speed on the finer points of marketing beacon technology. From here, the only real topic left to discuss is whether or not your dealership is ready to embrace the future or let the more forward-thinking members of your local marketplace capture the attention - business - of today's tech-savvy car buying audience.