iBeacons: Inside the Marketing Matrix

iBeacons Inside the Marketing MatrixMarketing is a funny thing. Customers like it when their local store staff know what they like and remember them by name, but when it comes to mobile marketing, the tracking and info can seem rather creepy. And if not creepy, then at least as if someone in the matrix has reduced everything about a person to a marketing pitch.

Matthew Panzarino’s recent post at TechCrunch gets into some of the nitty gritty, from his point of view.

Panzarino notes that, according to a recent study by inMarket, the use of beacons (Apple brands these as iBeacons, and has already shipped millions of capable devices) in retail stores engendered a 19 times increase in interactions with advertised products, a 16.5 times increase in app usage in-store, and a 6.4 increase in the likelihood that a shopper kept an app that sent them a beacon message on their phones.

“Those stats are incredibly impressive,” Panzarino notes. “inMarket says it measures interactions in that customers are picking those physical products up and scanning barcodes. There’s no info about raw numbers, of course, but if those improvements could be tacked onto existing mobile efforts, marketers have a huge opportunity here.”

According to Panzarino, inMarket, an ad platform focused on mobile and beacons, rolled out “one of the biggest networks of these proximity-sensitive devices to retail shoppers earlier this year and has continued to expand its installs.”

“Beacons installed inside retail stores like Saks or grocery outlets can send proximity-based alerts to shoppers at the precise moment — and location — that they’re enabled to make a decision on a purchase,” Panzarino says. “This is the holy grail of retail advertising, which normally takes a scattershot approach to ‘pre-advertising’ shoppers or tries to guesstimate when they’re in the vicinity of a product.”

In other words, according to Panzarino, “When a beacon knows you’re within a couple of feet of a Zatarain’s rice mix and sends you a coupon, that can be much more effective than trying to mail you a coupon a month earlier in the off chance that you might be in the mood for creole.”

“This is the first data gleaned from a beacon rollout at scale that proves beacons WILL become commonplace and accepted by users when implemented correctly,” inMarket CEO Todd Dipaola said. “There will be some winners and losers in rolling out successful beacon strategies. The winners will help your phone behave like a concierge with personalized answers and advice just as you need it. Others who try to make phones into a used car salesman and send pushes just because they can, will have trouble reaching an audience.”

Instead of swarming a consumer with notifications just because she may be near a store, the laser precision of a beacon notification uses contextual signals to talk to a customer when it matters the most. That’s both an exciting development for retailers, of course, and also the inside-the-matrix behavior that many consumers still find somewhat invasive.

“I’m not completely comfortable with the extent of the data and context advertisers will have on me within the next couple of years,” Panzarino admits. “Nevertheless, the ‘pro’ of it is that you’ll get bombarded less with crap that doesn’t really matter. And if you’re concerned about your location being tracked then you should probably stop carrying a smartphone.”

Panzarino then describes a futuristic grocery trip that illustrates just how much the matrix could change for consumers.

“Let’s go grocery shopping in 2020 for a moment. It’s just 5 ½ years away, but it could be dramatically different. You walk into the store, let’s say the produce section, and are reminded about which apples are in season and are ripest this week, how much they weigh and how much they will cost. Since you previously favorited a recipe for apple pie, an inMarket beacon pings your device with a personalized offer for pie crust,” writes Panzarino. “You head over to the freezer aisle and pick up ice cream — where your BLE fitness app informs you that because you did 4 miles on the treadmill that morning, you can fit a few ounces of vanilla into your daily calorie budget.”

Panzarino’s vision of the future continues on — and is definitely worth a read (link below).

In the meantime, DiPaola says that everything described is possible with beacons and mobile hardware, and that inMarket’s data “shows that shoppers actually want that stuff.”

“I’m not sure how okay I am with the way that the contextual shopping era is shaping up, but it’s coming,” concludes Panzarino.