Retailers have already started using beacons as a channel to push deals to customers and better help them navigate stores, but now Facebook is testing out a new system that could help make the in-store experience more social.
The social network launched the program it calls "place tips" last week. The feature uses location data (if the user has it enabled) to display information from a business, museum or landmark's Facebook page, as well as friends' posts or photos at that place, at the top of the news feed when people are nearby.
Facebook has also installed Bluetooth beacons in a few businesses across New York City to test more accurate targeting for the service. Place tips are currently free for businesses, though Facebook did say it could eventually sell ads related to the information.
"For merchants, place tips could revive the importance of corporate pages on Facebook," Reed Albergotti wrote on the Wall Street Journal Digits blog. "Companies initially created Facebook pages to communicate with 'fans' for free. But Facebook has limited the distribution of such messages by altering the formula behind its news feed, prodding companies to buy ads to reach potential customers."
Beacons have been installed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dominique Ansel Bakery, Strand Book Store, the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, Brooklyn Bowl, Pianos, the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop and Veselka. The service will also work with landmarks, such as Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and JFK Airport, but since those locations are too crowded to use beacons, they will rely on WiFi and GPS alone.
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