The New Conventional Wisdom: ‘Mythbusting’ iBeacon and the Physical Web
Edwin Acevedo
Copywriter | PR Coordinator

The new conventional wisdom: ‘Mythbusting’ iBeacon and the Physical Web.

The conventional wisdom about beacons says to use the iBeacon format for mobile apps and the Physical Web for mobile browsers. We’re as guilty as anyone for this narrative. As anyone who follows technology knows, change happens quickly. The lines between what iBeacon and the Physical Web can do are blurring. We’re guilty of changing this narrative, too.

A few months ago, we released a software developer kit (SDK) that enables native apps to see and interact with Physical Web content. More recently, we created CoverCardsTM to improve the way marketers create proximity marketing touch points and created a better Physical Web browsing experience with our Browser. Our platform redefines what is possible on the Physical Web. Let’s look at the current beacon narrative, bust the myths and reveal new truths about beacons, apps, and the Physical Web.

Myth: Only iBeacon integrates inside apps.
Busted: Physical Web app integration is easier.

The PHY platform is a developer-friendly Physical Web beacon management platform, with an API for programmatic control and a robust SDK to enhance any native app with Physical Web capabilities.

Brands that enable their apps with our Physical Web SDK add a powerful proximity marketing channel to their marketing mix. They can get many of the same benefits of iBeacon like usability, user experience, and tight iOS integration. At the same time, they add many advantages of the Physical Web like direct access to content and interaction, lower implementation and maintenance costs, improved reach to non-app users, tighter integration with Android and an easier ability to scale.

Yet technology analysts continue to promote the old story that iBeacon is good for one thing and Physical Web for another. The new conventional wisdom is, with the PHY platform your beacons can take on the best characteristics of both.

A phySDK-enabled app can lead to more app downloads and increased user engagement because the Physical Web makes general content available to people with any open Physical Web browser. They can then be offered extra incentives to download and use a specialized (branded) app to view content. If those app users are enticed to log in, they can see personalized incentives.

This process gives consumers a way to sample content prior to moving to premium or personalized content, gently moving someone from being a curious hopper to an engaged, loyal customer.

Myth: iBeacon creates a better user experience.
Busted: Physical Web UX is simple and direct.

The Physical Web presents an attractive alternative to the “push and track” model of proximity marketing commonly used with iBeacon. Its premise: people generally respond better to interactions that they initiate, rather than interruptive prompts, and that people prefer to pull engagement rather than having it pushed at them.

Once people are made aware of nearby Physical Web content, they need only tap a button to see it. The self-service nature of the Physical Web changes the beacon experience by allowing people to research and browse at their convenience, call on specific product expertise through online chat or phone support, or even signal when they are ready for in-person assistance.

As for iBeacon, installation can be a delicate  – and expensive – prospect. Trained on-site installers typically configure an iBeacon deployment, then “tune” the install, testing and adjusting for overlaps in the invisible Bluetooth signals. Any changes to the physical environment will require the installers to return, incurring additional expense.

Forrester Research reported that current beacon deployment and management methods with Apple’s iBeaconTM protocol can cost $300 per year, per beacon. The challenges associated with iBeacon deployments are solved with the Physical Web.

Myth: You have to push messages to engage with customers.
Busted: Push at your peril – many find it annoying.

Marketing works if you can create awareness. The iBeacon protocol is great for monitoring customer movements, and these interactions help marketers predict, then trigger action in the form of “push” messages.

Push messages create awareness, but not always the good kind. They are a distraction unless they provide useful information or special offers that correctly predict the customer’s intent. Apps that push a mistimed or off-target notification give people another reason to groan – and to uninstall.

Push messages are best used in moderation. Remember that your app is not the only one on someone’s phone. Some smartphones have 20, 30 or even more apps. What if they all sent push notifications? It’s no wonder the No. 1 reason people uninstall an app is annoying push messages. According to a recent survey, 46% of app users would disable push notifications if there was more than one a week, and 32% would stop using the app if they received between 6 and 10 in a week.

We believe curiosity is a better connector than prodding for user engagement. The Physical Web waits quietly until called upon and gives the consumer a way to initiate an engagement. It avoids pushing the wrong message – or any message – at the wrong time.

Other benefits include:

  • Physical Web beacon content is sorted by distance. The closer you are to a beacon, the higher on the list it will be.
  • Robust web-based content makes it easy to incorporate videos, chat support, surveys and an endless variety of rich web content.
  • With, beacon owners can deliver alternate content to different audiences, based on the browser or app a consumer uses.
  • The Physical Web has a singular focus on providing useful and timely information. Since each interaction serves to fulfill a customer’s need, customer satisfaction is enhanced and provides a strong platform for deeper interactions.

Myth: Only iBeacon has tight integration with iOS.
Busted: phySDK beautifully integrates the Physical Web.

With the phySDK, your native app not only gets Physical Web capabilities, it gets the same user interface as the browser. Try the iOS version here. Try the Android version here.

Most people are driven by visual cues. That’s not just conventional wisdom. Facebook, Google, and even Twitter studies have shown that pictures get more clicks. We built on that concept for the browser by piggybacking on the same Open Graph and JSON-LD tech that is already built into millions of the world’s web pages.

Myth: You can’t capture analytics with the Physical Web.
Busted: The PHY platform offers superior analytics through unique IDs.

The PHY platform assigns each beacon a unique identifier called a phyID. BKON beacons ship with phyIDs installed but any Eddystone-URL compatible beacon can receive one. Each phyID can then take on attributes such as location (store number, aisle), campaign (back-to-school, dinner specials). With the phyIQ feature in the PHY platform, you can measure just about any datapoint you want.

Our SDK can then add more contextual data to the transaction, identifying the device and the user when allowed. In addition, with the PHY platform’s metrics, you can measure how many times a beacon is scanned. When using our CoverCards feature, administrators can also measure when websites are clicked. Of course, since all Physical Web beacons broadcast URLs, marketers can evaluate campaign’s performance with rich web tracking tools like Google Analytics.

Myth: Physical Web beacons are not secure.
Busted: The PHY platform + BKON beacons include multiple safeguards.

Only authorized users can change the PHY platform’s settings. A single user can have basic access and Enterprise plan users can give account administrators control of multiple users, each with varying levels of access.

Each BKON-brand beacon includes firmware with an embedded key-code that enables the PHY platform to lock ownership and control to an owner’s account. This means the PHY platform knows which beacons are “official” and which are copies. After a time, pirated (spoofed) beacons will point to alternate content controlled by the original beacon owners. This is especially useful for proximity rewards programs or any other use case where security is a concern.

There’s a new conventional wisdom

The proximity marketing landscape is constantly changing, but we can help. Feel free to contact us anytime with your questions.