Trade show participants are always looking for ways to take their audience's experience to the next level. From setting just the right atmosphere to surprising guests with a cool, high-tech demo, exhibition booth designs should be focussed on creating that "wow" factor and establishing an impression that sticks.  

In the retail world, beacon technology – more commonly known under the Apple iBeacon brand name – has taken off, with marketing teams leveraging the technology to promote their offerings and better engage with customers. What exactly is this technology, and could it be equally useful for your next exhibition or conference? 

Beacons and marketing: The low-down   

Beacons transmit Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) to communicate with smartphone devices. This enables them to "know" a user's location and send messages or information based on someone's proximity. From there, it's all about how people set up apps to make use of the opportunity for localised engagement. 

18% of mobile marketers already take advantage of iBeacons.

According to research from Adobe, nearly one in five (18 per cent) of mobile marketers already take advantage of iBeacon functionality, with this figure expected to climb to 26 percent this year. But that's just Apple's technology – nearly half of the study's respondents said they used geo-location technology to send information. 

In a retail landscape, this could include sending coupons, flash deals or recipes based on where shoppers are in the store, or tracking information about traffic flow throughout the aisles. It's about both enhancing the user experience by providing incredibly relevant, helpful information while also seizing the opportunity to gather additional data to drive insights about demand, consumer behaviour and more.  

Given the range of possibilities, the low cost of beacon technology and the rapid growth of smartphone ownership, it's no wonder organisations are looking to make the most of this technology while also driving up mobile app adoption.

Research from BI Intelligence revealed the devices could fuel up to US$4.1 billion this year in the United States alone, with that volume surging 10 times over in 2016.

Beacons in the exhibition hall 

Given that exhibitions, conferences and trade shows provide a prime opportunity to interact with a warm audience on the spot, beacons could be a great way to deliver an enhanced experience and interact with attendees over mobile channels

Cvent noted that beacons offer the chance for marketing event planners to gain greater control over the audience experience, sending messages at the most appropriate moment to increase response rates. For instance, the source suggested setting up an event app to open a survey as attendees leave a session. 

Organisations could also incorporate beacons into their exhibition booth strategy to give visitors additional information about the displays they're looking at, similar to the way Apple Museum triggered audio about their displays at a conference: 

The nice thing about beacons is that the possibilities are quite endless. There are innumerable ways to be innovative with mobile messaging and tools based on the user's location, so event planners should feel free to let their creative juices run and be innovative.  

Beyond simple messaging 

Need a little more inspiration? Here's a cool example of a marketing activation that vodka brand Medea is conducting through the use of beacon technology and mobile apps:  

As this concept shows, beacon technology provides a way to deliver personalised interactions – and people are generally intrigued and appreciative of interactions like these. The BI Intelligence report found that half of US adults already use mobile gadgets in stores, while Adobe's data showed about one-third of smartphone owners made use of "mobile assisted in-store shopping". 

Overall, the most memorable, effective exhibition display designs and marketing activations seek ways to enhance the visitor experience. Technology can go far in driving that "wow" factor, and beacons may be a powerful tool to have in your arsenal.