For many years, marketers have been excited about near field communication (NFC) technologies. Particularly, they were excited that NFC allows the transfer of data and enhances payment technology. It seemed NFC would be the tool to provide marketers with greater customer behavior insight. However, it is beacon technology that has now emerged as the ‘next big thing’ in marketing.

A low-cost piece of hardware, beacons use battery-friendly, low energy Bluetooth (BLE) connections to transmit messages or prompts directly to a tablet or smartphone. These devices provide data on user location and amount of time spent. Beacon devices can transfer data for a range up to 50 meters (164 feet), while NFC has a range up to 20 centimeters (7.8 inches). Beacon technology pushes this data or content to a user’s phone, utilizing the particular app as a beacon.

B2B marketers can take advantage of this technology in more ways than one. At industry tradeshows, there are a couple different ways to implement the technology. Just by walking past the booth, app detects a user by the beacons, sending profile information to the iPads of marketers. Marketers can then push customized content to prospective customers without them ever stopping in the booth. Marketers can also push news, or send reminders about upcoming events during the tradeshow.

B2B companies can also use beacon technology within their exhibit stand. You can the beacons to trigger specific content dependent upon where a visitor is in your booth. If your booth is showing different product lines, or telling a story as you move through, beacons can send accompanying content. This allows for a much more personalized and intimate customer experience.

There are a few limitations to beacon technology. The biggest thing to be aware of is that most people will not have the devices that are able to interact with these new technologies. Most users need a device with Bluetooth 4.0 that also supports BLE. If most of your industry’s target audience uses Blackberry, for example, beacon technology would not be a beneficial marketing option.

Users will also need to have the app installed on the phone. Marketers must remember that users control how much they interact with the app. Find a balance between regularly pushing content to users to keep them engaged without it being too frequent. If users become annoyed with the amount of notifications they receive, they may turn off push notifications. This significantly decreases engagement with the app. Even worse, they may delete the app altogether.

Even though the technology is still fairly new and under development, B2B agencies and marketers should not wait to invest in beacons. Becoming familiar with technology early on is critical to staying ahead of the marketing curve and capitalizing on these new consumer insights.