With smartphones in the hands of consumers everywhere, there is no question that retailers have to engage customers through their smartphones to most effectively connect with and serve them. 4 out of 5 smartphone users currently use their devices to shop, oftentimes while in a brick-and-mortar store. But what can retailers do to reach consumers on their devices?
The solution currently generating most of the attention is the beacon. Beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy to communicate and engage with mobile devices. When a consumer gets close to the beacon it pushes information to their phone as a notification, which will then prompt them to open an app to access the information or deal.
The objective of location-based marketing is to deliver relevant, valuable content to users when they need it most – when they’ve entered the store, they’re near a product on sale or they’re ready to check out, for example. Beacon technology can also gather data about the consumers’ behavior within the store. How many people interacted with this notification? Did they purchase a relevant product after seeing the notification? Apps connected to the notifications can also gather demographic data if given the right permissions.
However, the current beacon technology has several difficulties that retailers must face. First, there are inherent roadblocks of costs and resources to deploy systems of scale. These roadblocks are compounded by the very nature of the technology, as beacon systems are created for hypertargeted location-based marketing – a specific area in a store. That extreme level of specificity makes it difficult for many retailers who are still working on their mobile and omnichannel marketing strategies to coordinate all the separate digital touchpoints and manage content strategies efficiently (“attention store managers, please move beacon #7 to aisle 6 near the duct tape by X date for a new promotion”).
An effective use of beacons also requires consumers to opt-in in several different ways. They must enable Bluetooth, turn on location services and give permissions to the respective app. Despite the several layers of permissions, many consumers harbor privacy concerns regarding beacons and their ability to pinpoint your location. Finally, if the retailer has an unrefined mobile marketing approach and pushes excessive or irrelevant messages to users, the users will quickly remove the app and opt-out, and the retailer loses the opportunity for valuable consumer interaction.
But beacons are not the only solution for retailers in the location-based marketing world. We at Mood Media recently announced our new Presence technology – an audio watermarking solution that can communicate to consumer phones through mobile apps, such as Shazam. We view our Presence solution as a “super” beacon that has many advantages over the more commonly thought of beacon solutions. Unlike traditional beacons, Presence does not require battery-draining Bluetooth or location services. Instead, customers only need to engage with an app to receive the branded content right when they want it, eliminating annoying excess notifications as customers browse the store.
Most significantly, Presence can function as an aisle-level, storewide or even omnichannel solution, giving retailers a flexible platform from which to deliver their high-level brand messages, proprietary apps, marketing initiatives, and more for every customer in every location to see. In many ways, this approach to location based marketing is more natural for businesses who are still getting comfortable with mobile marketing by allowing brands to more easily develop high-level mobile marketing initiatives that integrate into their other consumer touchpoints, instead of focusing on limited aisle-level promotions. The technology is scalable and is already enabled in hundreds of thousands of Mood client locations around the world, making Presence a true turnkey location-based marketing solution. For retailers who are struggling with beacons or have not yet tested the waters of mobile marketing, Presence can be an ideal platform for their needs.
DIFFERENT…BUT NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE
While traditional beacons and Presence have some differences, for creative retailers there is great potential for the solutions to work together. They are, after all, both different faces of beacon technology and they can be integrated, allowing retailers to deliver both high-level brand messaging and targeted aisle-level content in a strategic way that truly adds value to the customer experience through the mobile platform. Embracing mobile marketing at both the store level and aisle level will give retailers the flexibility and know-how to keep up with the evolving demands of consumers. As industries begin to solve the puzzle of location-based marketing, the retailer and solution that rises to the top will be the one that is easiest for consumers to use, most integrated into retailers’ omnichannel strategy and provides the most real value to the overall consumer experience.
– Submitted by Ken Eissing, President of Mood Media North America