In Tennessee, Minor League Baseball Meets the Physical Web

Fans of the Nashville Sounds Minor League Baseball team used their phones to access player statistics, read baseball trivia and find the nearest peanuts and Cracker Jack… or beer.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Erik Carlson, Bkon's CMO, says the Sounds collected far more contact information from fans who offered up their phone numbers or email addresses in response to incentives—entry into contests to win free tickets or food or drinks, promoted in Gameday or accessed via Nearby or browsers—than they have in the past. Previously, Sounds employees inside the park have approached fans and asked them to sign up for those types of contests.

Conventional phone apps provide companies that deploy beacons a means of directly connecting with customers, but as consumers' phones begin to fill up with branded apps, their interest in downloading additional apps can begin to wane. This is why Bkon is bullish on the Physical Web and its enablement of browser-based content delivery based on proximity to beacons. While neither Graves nor Carlson think branded apps are going to disappear, the Physical Web provides an alternative that they believe many consumers will begin moving toward.

As for Bkon's business model, Graves says his firm sells beacons and then offers its PHY.net beacon and content-management platform under a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. "We have free accounts, for beacons that power up to a half million phone interactions per month," he states. To put that in context, the Sounds' four-game PoC generated 65,000 interactions.

Changing the content that a Physical Web transmits is accomplished by updating the content of the URL to which it points, thereby making it possible to manage thousands of those beacons simultaneously. As part of its SaaS platform, Bkon also provides its customers with metrics, showing the types of browsers used to access data, as well as the number of users who access that information via an app.

Bryan Mayhood, the Nashville Sounds' VP of sales, says the organization was pleased with the PoC and that his goal was to find new, creative ways to reach out to fans. He is not convinced that fans who eschew the app and opt for checking for content on a browser, or through Nearby, would get as much value from the experience in the long term. "I think most people are used to using apps," he says, "and telling fans to 'go enable Google Chrome' is a hard sell."

Mayhood cannot say whether the Sounds will continue using the Bkon network of beacons and its Gameday app next year. "We only [ran the test] for a four-game period," he notes, "and we have 70-some games each season, so we'd like to see more tests of the technology over a longer period of time to see if we can keep fans engaged throughout the season."

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