On-demand BLE Beacon: Bringing the online advertising model in-store

Online advertising uses a very mature pricing model consisting of CPC (Cost Per Click) and CPM (Cost Per thousand iMpressions). This is mainly because the digital medium makes it easy to record ad impressions and most importantly record user interest which is expressed explicitly by clicking an ad. This concept of registering user interest can also be realized in-store by using my idea of On-demand beacons.

What is an On Demand Beacon?

A Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon incessantly transmits BLE signals. An On-Demand beacon is a special type of BLE beacon that transmits a beacon only when it is pressed. It has a soft cover on the top which when pressed emits the beacon. Unlike a regular beacon which continuously emits a beacon, the On-Demand beacon only transmits, as the name suggest, on-demand. Also, unlike a regular beacon, the transmitting range of an On-demand beacon is smaller targeting only the user who is in close proximity.

Figure: On-demand beacon outside and inside
Figure: On-demand beacon size

So consider for e.g. a brick and mortar apparel store like Macys. The customer sees a shoe he likes. Next to the shoe is the On-demand beacon. The user presses the On-Demand beacon and on his smartphone the back-office system delivers more information about the shoes, aisle on which he can find matching socks etc. Most importantly, the system registers user interest in the shoes very similar to clicking an ad online. Also, pressing the On-Demand beacon is far more easier than scanning a QR code and requires very little effort or tech-saviness on the part of the user.

Figure: In-Store User Experience

Following is a sequence diagram of the interaction,

Solving the problem of attribution

In marketing, attribution is the identification of a set of user actions (“events” or “touchpoints”) that contribute in some manner to a desired outcome, and then the assignment of a value to each of these events (source:wikipedia). For a brick and mortar seller the attribution problem distills down to the question – “for each in-store purchase, which advertisements and user-interactions were influential?”

While an On-Demand beacon may not solve the problem of attribution in itself, it does provide an important data point. An On-demand beacon when delivered, helps identify the user and may prove his retained interest for a product whose ad he saw earlier online. This is more information than what a regular beacon, which continuously broadcasts blindly, provides.

Battery-less/passive On-Demand beacon

Given the quieter nature of the on-demand beacon, they may be realized using a battery less Piezoelectric circuit powered by the energy delivered by the button press.

Hybrid Beacon

Alternatively, a regular beacon may be extended to double up as a regular beacon and an On-demand beacon with separate Beacon ID for each.


In conclusion, the On-Demand beacon builds upon the regular BLE beacon and in addition to the regular beacon, brings the online user tracking model in-store and helps solve the problem of attribution.