Proximity marketing: Reaching customers at the right moment with relevant opportunities

By James O'Brien

| Retail

Your customer’s smart phone chimes or buzzes. Bluetooth-powered beacons throughout your retail location prompt apps to deliver relevant offers. Suddenly, your customer knows he or she can find a great deal just one aisle over, at a nearby booth or on the make and model just around the corner in the car lot.

The Future Becomes Reality

This is the rapidly approaching future of proximity marketing platforms. GeoMarketing reports that 62 percent of 142 surveyed global technology providers are targeting shops and stores for innovation and deployment. Broadly speaking, brands are expected to spend some $5 billion on location-based marketing by 2019.

Beacon technology has already influenced some $1.3 billion in sales, as of 2015, notes Digital Social Retail. Further still, analysts suggest that 2016 could see a tenfold increase in the technology’s influence on customer spend.

With that kind of growth as the context, consider the following ways that mobile devices, the retail beacons that interact with them and right-time/right-place offers are converging. The strategies and approaches to proximity marketing are advancing along innovative and data-driven lines.

Location-Based Experiences: Strategic Approaches to Frequency and Long-Term Goals

SXSW deployed Bluetooth-powered beacons throughout the festival beginning in 2014, alerting attendees about events, products and exhibits via mobile device. However, as Mashable reported while covering the deployment at the festival, knowing the audience is crucial to creating the desired positive effect. That is, proximity doesn’t always equate to consumer permission when it comes to pushing a message to a user’s app. Selective outreach weighs the signal-to-noise ratio in the sender’s favor.

In fact, sometimes an in-the-moment call is better replaced by a post-visit acknowledgment. It can be enough to thank the customer for visiting a store or site. This action becomes an entry to future prompts and offers that can help retain and build loyal, repeat visitors.

Location Types Can Amplify Offer Relevance in Proximity Marketing

Major U.S. and global airlines are implementing proximity-based technology to notify passengers about boarding options at the gate, retail offers in the airport and other relevant content.

Airports represent an interesting category for location-based outreach. The low-energy Bluetooth devices that reach out to smartphones and tablets provide direct access to consumers in a highly contextualized approach. Travelers are primed to receive offers from airlines about seat upgrades or priority boarding opportunities. Similarly, airport restaurants can send out prompts around mealtimes with directions to a breakfast or cocktail-hour special. The airport can reach out with information about nearby amenities, from lounges to charging stations and office spaces, plus walking directions to find them.

These approaches transfer well to other venues where Wi-Fi connectivity is either not guaranteed or offered behind a pay wall, such as a concert or sports arena. As the range of consumer activities in a purpose-specific spot is often more finite than in an open retail ecosystem — they are waiting for a flight, or they are viewing a performance, for example — offers have the advantage of additional built-in focus and relevance.

Proximity Marketing Platforms Create a Two-Way Data Flow

As beacons trigger offers and prompts to consumers, they also allow marketers to see what customers are doing. Data analytics come into play, as they do across so many elements of the consumer-marketing experience. That is, beacons help illuminate retail traffic patterns, such as how much time shoppers spend in a particular aisle or at a given automobile. In the moment, and later through follow-up touch points that include this gathered information, that data can make contact through proximity marketing even more personalized and relevant to the consumer.

With the emergence of location-based platforms, strategies around deployment and use cases are, in all likelihood, limited only by the imagination. If analysts’ predictions are accurate and billions of dollars are destined to come into play through location-based services over the next several years, then proximity marketing is an opportunity that retail and service enterprises cannot ignore.

Written By

James O'Brien

Technology Reporter

For the past half decade, James O'Brien has covered technology and the ways it intersects with our lives and work. His points of focus include data analytics, the mobile sector, driver-less cars, the Internet of Things, IT infrastructure, data security, 3-D printing, and technology…

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