CVS Reaching “Nearby” Shoppers with Google’s Beacon Program

In early June, Google introduced Nearby, the company’s Android beacon and app program that allows businesses and retailers to send messages to nearby shoppers via the Google Play app. A few weeks later, CVS agreed to pilot the program.

The Nearby pilot is an expansion on existing beacon programs for the pharmacy and retailer. Working with current beacon provider, Radius Networks, CVS is leveraging Nearby’s user reach to help in-store customers order photos in minutes and print at the kiosk.

In the past, the success of beacon-based in-store marketing has been limited by the need for specific apps on the phone. Google’s program removes this major roadblock by relying on Google Play, which is pre-installed. To receive Nearby notifications, users must have an Android 4.4 device or later, which is now installed on 78% of Android smartphones according to Google. Google’s Eddystone beacons can also trigger notifications through the Chrome browser.

The first discussion of Nearby took place at Google’s annual developer conference (below), Google I/O 2016 in May. At the event, Akshay Kannan, product manager at Google, said that it currently takes several steps for nearby devices to interact with each other. “Ideally,” he said, “you should just be able to just walk up to something and interact with it.”

CVS isn’t the only company exploring ways to utilize Nearby and beacons to reach local consumers. According to a post featured on Google Developers Blog, pilot programs include:

  • The Broad Museum works with Area360 and Sensoro to offer in-app audio tours to visitors as they enjoy museum exhibits.
  • United Airlines works with Radius Networks to help users more easily watch free in-flight movies & TV in the app by installing the app before boarding
  • The University of Notre Dame works with Radius Networks to delight campus visitors with virtual tours of campus and important local sites.
  • Airside’s Mobile Passport works with Bluvision to help airport travelers skip the US Customs line by pre-registering and submitting their declaration form online via their mobile phone.

Overall, the program is intended to make it easier for business locations to “build compelling proximity-based experiences” for local consumers. Nearby shares relevant location specific messages with users that promote a particular page on a mobile site, app or Google Play.

In addition to being limited to Android devices, users must have “Blutetooth and Location” turned on for Nearby to work. Beacons must also be configured using Google’s Eddystone beacon protocol and registered with Google for Nearby to work. While there are a number of requirements, Google’s Nearby initiative brings scale to beacon programs that have been hindered by lack-luster app downloads.

Google will discuss Eddystone, proximity marketing and its vision for The Physical Web at the 2016 Place Conference in Chicago on September 21, 2016.

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One Response

  1. Thanks for the article Joe. I have to imagine it will only be a matter of time before Apple provides a similar service for iPhones. Although I’m sure at some point Google is going to integrate this technology into its advertising platform and monetize the feature, something Apple wouldn’t be able to do as easily. -makeitmindful

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