When you discover what beacons are about and find a use case that works for you, the flow is often very similar — you get beacons, then start working on a demo (or find developers who can do it for you). Then you test a demo, iterate, test again, iterate and finally you have an app and solution that you want to push to your customers, employees or even family.
It's the approach we definitely recommend in most situations, especially if you're looking to scale quickly. In this article, we'll cover one less typical approach to working with beacons — the one that doesn't involve having developers on board.
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Sending notifications with and without an app
Most proximity campaigns rely on notifications pushed to user's smartphone or tablet. These can involve informing clients about promotions, educating museum visitors about nearby objects or welcoming restaurant guests in a very personalized way.
It can be achieved either through in-app notifications or through Google's Eddystone-URL. What's the difference?
In-app notifications, triggered by entering or exiting a beacon's range, are the only way to send push notifications to users' phones. Regardless if the app is open or not (even if it's manually killed), a notification will show up on the screen once a user enters a beacon's range or leaves it. You can also set certain conditions for each notification to appear — e.g. display a specific advertisement only to females under 30 (given they provide that kind of details within the app) or to people who have previously visited a specific space (and interacted with the beacon placed there). Customization options are almost unlimited. In order to receive notifications, users will need to enable Bluetooth and mobile data connection on their device.
On the other hand, the packet named Eddystone-URL allows you to push very short messages to nearby users without an app. Google created its own Physical Web technology to take advantage of this and we improved it further by building Here & Now. Both give you tons of opportunities to reach customers who otherwise, for various reasons, wouldn't install a dedicated app. Both technologies are also very easy to implement and require no coding skills whatsoever. There are, however, certain limitations when it comes to the notifications themselves and the way they're displayed on users' devices:
These are, unfortunately, the requirements introduced by Google when Physical Web was created in the first place. Despite those obstacles, we believe those solutions are also excellent ways to reach your customers. We'll now compare both of them but if you know by now that you need more than this, scroll down and see the CMSs compatible with beacons.
Physical Web and Here & Now — what's the difference?
The notifications in the Physical Web are sent in the form of links to users within a beacon's range.
There are certain requirements for the links to work:
The conditions for receiving notifications through Physical Web remain the same as in the case of in-app notifications (Bluetooth and Internet connection) but on top of those, you'll need to have Google Chrome browser installed on your device. Android phones come with Chrome pre-installed while in iOS you'll need to install it manually and add Chrome widget to your "Today" screen. You can read some more about Physical Web in this article.
Here & Now is quite similar as it's based on Physical Web. As mentioned before, it allows for a bit longer notifications which, except links, will include a title and a brief description. On top of that, Here & Now allows you to track certain analytics as you distribute your links - you can track how many people saw your notifications and tapped on them as well as estimate the number of devices with BLE on passing through the beacon's range. What's more, you can instantly update the link through our Cloud without the need to connect to a beacon (something that you'll need to do if using Eddystone URL) and use both HTTP and HTTPS protocols. Read more about Here & Now here.
Here & Now can be configured only on iOS devices (both Android and iOS devices can receive the notifications, though!) and is only available with Location Beacons. Physical Web doesn't have these limitations but in direct comparison falls a bit behind its younger sibling. Give both a try and see which would work best for you.
Content Management Systems
Last but not least, some really smart people built platforms, commonly known as CMSs that allow you to easily create native apps for Android and iOS without hiring a developer. So if Physical Web and Here & Now don't really apply to you, consider trying one of those platforms. They're available for a fixed monthly/annual fee and you can get your apps up and running in no time.
General purpose CMSes:Bleesk — easily create proximity campaigns of any kind for both Android and iOS (from $15/month)PencilCase — allows you to take your designs and turn them into ready iOS app (from $25 monthly)Rover — integrate your existing app with beacons and deploy updates from the browser (from $350 monthly)
Industry specific CMSes:Cuseum — create a museum app and engage your visitors (individual pricing)Wisely — manage your restaurant with the help of beacons (from $200/month/location)GuestDriven — build relationships with your hotel guests (individual pricing)CrowdCompass — create great experiences for your event visitors (individual pricing)Robin — book meeting rooms in your office (from $99/month)Beecon — control your home and surroundings from an app ($8.99 one-time fee)
What should you choose?
After going through all the options, you might still be wondering what is the way to go. So here are the suggestions from our team:
Go with Eddystone-URL if:
Go with Here & Now if Physical Web sounds great but you also need to:
Go with CMSes if:
Go with your own app after all if:
We certainly hope the comparisons in this article helped you figure out which solution works best for you. If you're still not sure, consider trying each of them and evaluating them down the road. If we can help with an advice or some troubleshooting, give us a shout!