In honor of the recent anniversary of rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley’s death, Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, has introduced a new interactive multimedia iPad tour that taps iBeacon technology to enhance visitors’ experiences. The move puts Graceland at the forefront of a select group of businesses that are embracing this new technology as part of their marketing strategy.
Throughout the tour, the iPads use beacons to deliver immediate location-based content, including audio recordings, videos, and photos, enabling guests to dive deeper into the story of Presley’s life. Meanwhile, Graceland is also offering a separate iPad youth tour, which features interactive photo activities geared toward kids and tweens.
“The tour is designed with the next generation of Elvis fans in mind – those who are now accustomed to seeing and experiencing the world via touch screen,” says Kevin Kern, director of public relations at Elvis Presley’s Graceland. “Elvis was always a ‘first adopter’ of new technology, so we’re also continuing his legacy at Graceland with the launch of iPad and iBeacon technology. If Elvis were alive today, he’d have a tablet in each room at Graceland.”
According to Kern, the iPad tour has been largely welcomed by Graceland visitors, as it delivers rich and instantaneous content that has never been part of the tour before. Guests particularly like the 360-degree panoramic views of each room, as well as home movies and Presley’s photos, all of which are triggered by beacons when visitors walk by the spots where these movies and photos were originally taken.
“We’re also seeing increased engagement from our younger visitors, due to the new, interactive ‘Photo Op’ iPad customized for kids,” he adds.
Like Graceland, other museums have started embracing this latest mobile tracking technology to deliver location-based content. The approach not only makes tours more interactive, but also lowers the cost for both the museums and the consumers, according to Chris Damron, chief innovation officer at BeaconStream, a proximity-based mobile marketing app provider.
Previously, visitors to museums had to use expensive devices like audio headsets to access detailed information on a tour. But now, with beacons, they are able to do so through apps on their mobile devices, instead of having to use additional headphones.
“[With iBeacon technology], there’s no additional cost for the museums,” says Damron. “And they are also able to provide visitors an unlimited amount of information, because [museums] can control beacons to decide how much information they want to transmit.”
So what exactly is an iBeacon? Apple unveiled its iBeacon technology last fall, a low-energy conversion of Bluetooth included in the launch of its iOS7 operating system. Because of its low cost (somewhere between $20 and $100) and high targeting ability, iBeacon technology has been viewed by some marketers as a new way to engage consumers in retail stores and other destinations.
Perhaps the most obvious advantage of this mobile tracking technology is that it could have an effect on foot traffic in businesses. For example, a mall could use beacons to provide location-based offers, coupons and deals to drive traffic into the store.
However, since the technology is still new to most marketers, many brands have not yet figured out how to integrate it into their strategies. “It’s more prevalent in European countries,” Damron says. “Big-box retailers [in the U.S.] like Walgreens are looking at iBeacon technology, but they have not yet fully implemented it.”
Jim McArthur, senior vice president of Digitaria, a JWT company, agrees that iBeacon technology is at a very experimental stage, saying “it will take some time for advertisers and marketers to harness this technology.”
In addition to retail stores, McArthur believes that iBeacon technology can improve location services and drive engagement in tourism as well.
“[Using iBeacons for] tourism is a great idea,” he notes. “Beacons would indeed work very well in many applications for both the ‘operational’ and ‘fun’ aspects of traveling.”
For example, a rental car app could provide consumers with directions to their cars. And when the consumer arrives, the car could recognize the consumer and unlock the door, complete the registration process, and issue the key, all without the help of a human attendant.
“[And the] same for your hotel. Your room becomes an ‘old friend’ that knows what temperature you like and what station to watch,” McArthur explains. “When you think about it from here, the possibilities really open up. Tourist attractions become intelligent – they interact with tourists digitally, delivering content and social connection in the real world.”
Looking forward, Graceland’s Kern says that they will further enhance the tour with beacons by providing more customized experiences on a seasonal basis. “For example, during the holiday season, we could use the iBeacons to trigger holiday-themed content throughout the mansion, which provides a new marketing opportunity for us,” he notes.
Will businesses continue to embrace iBeacon technology as part of their marketing strategy? Watch this space.