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Facebook Is Handing Out Free Beacons to Retailers

Facebook doesn't offer in-store marketing yet, but it looks likely.


Facebook is offering up free beacons to retailers and businesses using its service as part of an update to the company’s Place Tips feature originally rolled out in January.

Place Tips, which works by showing Facebook users posts and photos about a specific retailer or business when they open the app within the actual store, was originally tested with a small group of businesses in New York City. On Monday, Facebook announced it was expanding the feature to all businesses in the United States, and included an application for these businesses to request a free beacon for each of their physical stores. (Facebook also provided free beacons to its test partners.)

The idea is that beacons — small devices that can send a signal to a person’s smartphone when they get within a certain proximity — can be used to push information and deals to people while they’re in a prime position to make a purchase.

In Facebook’s case, retailers can’t yet advertise through Place Tips, but you can see the potential. Facebook’s pitch to advertisers has long been that it can target better than anyone else on the Internet. Adding location-specific ads and push notifications would only reinforce that position.

Facebook has designed its own beacon, which is being produced by an external manufacturer. Beacons aren’t expensive, but it’s still noteworthy that Facebook is willing to produce and distribute these beacons for free. It seems likely the company will expand on the Place Tips feature at some point down the road.

Facebook isn’t the only company interested in beacon marketing; Twitter recently made an investment in the space, too.

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