Beacon Technology Attracts Gardeners to Connecticut Flower Show

By Claire Swedberg

Prides Corner Farms featured a BLE solution from Sunrise Marketing to draw consumers to booths exhibiting its products at last month's event, while attendees gained coupons, special offers and eligibility for a prize.

At this past winter's Connecticut Flower and Garden Show, held in in Hartford, attendees got the chance to receive special offers and possibly win a prize, thanks to a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon solution provided by advertising agency Sunrise Marketing. The beacon deployment, sponsored by Prides Corner Farms, was intended to draw the attention of consumers to the booths of retailers selling the Connecticut nursery supplier's products.

The solution consisted of Kontakt.io Smart Beacons installed at or near 22 exhibition stands, as well as a CT Flower Show customer loyalty app, running on Sunrise Marketing's epunched software platform. Attendees could download the app onto an iOS or Android smartphone and use it to check in at 10 or more of the beacon locations in order to qualify for a chance to win a grand prize of $1,000 worth of plants from Prides Corner Farms.

To check in, attendees placed their smartphones near the Kontakt.io beacon attached to signs installed at various sites on the show floor.

The beacons were installed at retailers' booths and landscape exhibitions located throughout the show floor. When a participating visitor checked in at a booth by placing his or her smartphone near one of the beacons, the CT Flower Show app and epunched platform enabled the displaying of information regarding Prides Corner Farms products for sale at the show.

During the event, 125 exhibitors showcased products, 23 of which were Prides Corner Farms customers. The nursery decided to sponsor the app, and the use of Kontakt.io beacons at each of these booth locations, in order to attract the attention of attendees and provide content about its products.

"We were interested in the technology," says Tim Kane, Prides Corner Farms' marketing manager. "We also wanted to support the show and our clients who were exhibiting." By providing the technology, he says, the system made the show more engaging for participants, while also lifting sales—which benefited booth vendors, as well as the garden show's organizers.

Getting the right information to consumers had been a challenge at previous shows, Kane recalls. "We have used signs, but adding beacons allows us to provide additional information through Web links and videos."

The nursery hired Sunrise Marketing to install the beacons and tailor content for each exhibitor based on that exhibitor's specific products.

Altogether, several thousand people attended the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show, which took place on Feb. 18-21. During the four-day event, 828 individuals downloaded the app, and the beacons triggered the delivery of informational content and offers to their smartphones at least 6,000 times, with more than 800 special offers redeemed. In addition, says Kurt Fromherz, Sunrise Marketing's founder and owner, the exhibits using the app saw greater foot traffic than booths that did not. A total of 285 users became eligible to win the grand prize by visiting at least 10 check-in signs.

To participate in the system, visitors first used a touch screen, installed at the entrance, to enter their cell phone number. The epunched software used that number to send a link via text message that the visitor could then use to download the CT Flower Show 2016 app, from either iTunes (for iOS devices) or Google Play (for Android devices). From that point on, the user was invited to check in by placing his or her phone near other beacons mounted on "Check In" signs installed throughout the event space.

The CT Flower Show app kept track of the number of check-in signs that an attendee visited.

The user placed the phone near the Kontakt.io beacon attached to the sign, and the phone captured that beacon's ID number, prompting the app to add a check-in credit to that individual's account. At the same time, the app delivered messages promoting branded plants corresponding to that beacon's location, as well as special offers.

"Our audience proved to be much more interested in new technologies than we expected," Fromherz states. As a result of the four-day event, he says, Sunrise Marketing intends to expand the solution for the 2017 garden show.

In the meantime, Fromherz reports, Sunrise Marketing plans to provide free beacons to its retailer customers, for use with the epunched-based customer loyalty app customized for each retailer. When retailers deploy the beacons and app at their stores, he explains, "wholesalers can have direct interaction with consumers, benefiting the retailers and the wholesale nursery.

Prides Corner Farms plans to include the technology at exhibits at future garden shows, Kane says, and to offer the solution to retailers that sell its products. "We are very excited about the potential. We plan on supporting retailers who are involved with epunched by covering the cost of beacons and providing content," he states. "I think we can do more and open it up to all exhibitors."