When I attended ASDIE, the Annual Summit of Digital Innovation in Education, organised by Net Natives, I was struck by the potential of a developing marketing trend that one of the speakers, Daniel Rowles from Target Internet introduced; beacon adoption for proximity marketing.

It got me to thinking...this is a technology which has been utilised throughout the US as an innovative technique for hyper-localised and personalised proximity marketing by leisure and retail marketers but has not (yet) been adopted by universities... Why is this?

What are Beacons?

In their simplest form, beacons are Bluetooth devices that transmit and receive information to and from other devices, such as smart phones. They are able to auto detect when other Bluetooth enabled devices come into their range and are able to precisely locate a device within a large, enclosed space. Although already possible to do with both GPS and Wi-Fi, these communications can be affected by physical barriers, and so beacons retain a technological advantage over the pre-existing technology.


Interactions with a beacon have to be pre-approved and following a one-off consent, the device and beacon can exchange all sorts of information which can be used to deliver a better experience and give marketers data driven insights on their customers and their behaviour.

Business Insider predicts that by the end of 2019 in the U.S, beacons will be attributable to over $40 billion in retail sales (up from $4 billion in 2016) - but how can education marketers include beacons and proximity marketing in their student recruitment game plan?

So how could education marketers use beacons for proximity marketing?

Savvy marketers could employ beacons as part of their open day strategy to give a more personalised, targeted and richer visitor experience. Event teams could allow consenting students and their parents to access personalised information or services related to the faculty they are visiting and their journey through the campus could be tracked and personalised.

Push notifications could alert them to talks starting soon, facilities that are nearby (or undiscovered) and may be of interest, or even notifications of decreasing availability of places on courses that are filling fast - creating demand and on-the-day applications.

Your events team could use the data received by the beacons to create heat maps of where is busy and when, helping them plan and commit resources to ensure the event runs smoother and also help plan for future student recruitment events by identifying popular hot spots.

Beacons have the potential to support gamification and improve the impact of your experiential open days, facilitating fun, utility and learning. Visiting students could participate in digital scavenger hunts or uncover easter egg bonus content - revealed perhaps as a reward for following the journey that you want them to undertake at your event. An app that is beacon-friendly could show visitors whether there are delays for campus tours, helping them better plan their time and have a better overall experience.

Beyond this is the potential for the technology to enable user-curated tours of your facilities. With a beacon-friendly app, visiting students could navigate your campus at their own pace and direction, using beacons to discover interesting facilities and get supplementary audio-visual information as and when they approach them.

The data you receive from each beacon ping can be used for all kinds of future communications. By accepting the beacon, your visitors would create a new contact on your marketing performance platform and event capture software and then as their behaviours trigger new workflows and change their lead score, automations could send them highly personalised marketing messages. Admissions teams can see which contacts are 'hot' leads based on their interactions and pre-set qualifying behaviours and triggers throughout the open day and prioritise follow-ups accordingly.

Because of the requirement to opt-in to send and receive data, beacon adoption is likely to be GDPR friendly .

Is anyone in the education sector using beacon technology?

Examples of early adoption in the sector are few and far between, although Grand University Michigan (U.S.) Library has incorporated beacon networks which fed back heat maps showing students where the quieter areas were for study and gain faster access to specific materials.

By introducing beacons and integrating the technology with a beacon-friendly app, event capture and marketing campaign performance software (like Akero for example), university marketers who are early adopters could potentially benefit from huge ROI.

Rich Campbell was in attendance at ASDIE 2017, organised by Net Natives. You can pre-register for ASDIE 2018 here .

If you'd like to speak to one of our experts about creative experiential Open Day events and marketing strategies, get in touch.


Article by

Rich Campbell

Head of Marketing