Shining A Light On Beacon Misconceptions

By Jeff Hasen, Chief Marketing Officer and Author

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Merriam-Webster describes a beacon as “a strong light that can be seen from far away and that is used to help guide ships, airplanes, etc.”

In 2014, it could revise the definition to include a piece of hardware used to guide marketers.

Last year it was showrooming at retail locations that was most watched in the holiday season. This year, many of these same brick-and-mortars, and many others, have something else to keep an eye on – beacons installed to execute personalized and contextually relevant mobile app experiences, and drive foot traffic, brand awareness, and incremental revenue.

I’ve learned a lot about beacons through a new relationship that I have with Mobiquity Networks, which has developed the leading shopping mall-based mobile advertising network.

One misconception around beacons is that mobile device owners will be pestered by so many offers that the permission that they granted to receive marketing messages will be rescinded. That surely won’t happen if brands establish business rules that address consumer wants and desires.

Just look at the messaging channel. Thousands of brands have successfully engaged with consumers through permission-based mobile VIP clubs in large part because they understand that messages should only be sent when they provide value to the recipient.

In other words, consumers invite marketers into their house, but they will draw the line when a business overplays the welcome and figuratively puts its feet on the furniture and doesn’t know when to leave.

The great majority of marketers using SMS and MMS get this and there isn’t an issue that gets to the level of spam. The same is likely to happen in beacon marketing.

Another misconception is that beacons can only reach mobile owners who have Apple devices. Apple is a leader in beacons through iBeacon, but the technology is inclusive, resulting in the ability to market to iOS and Android users.

A third misconception is that a mobile user has to have an app open for communications via beacons to reach him or her. In fact, if a consumer agrees to receive messages from a brand or retailer or publisher, he or she will get a local notification when in proximity of a beacon that has been associated with that particular app.

With beacons, the large opportunity for marketers is the area of personalization. Beacon campaigns will soon be managed and measured through review of real-time, detailed customer data. Content will then be customized based on a customer’s precise location, demographics, or geo-behavioral attributes.

In 2015, 54 percent of mobile marketers will employ beacons, according to a report by Adobe.

Next year, we will see even more use of a consumer’s previous purchase history for the creation and dissemination of highly relevant information and offers.

Simon is one to keep an eye on this holiday season and into next year. It has been active in wireless for years, and wisely employs a broad set of products and services that meet the shopper’s needs and provides choice in ways to interact – text messaging, mobile web, apps, and more.

Now Simon is doubling down on its bet on beacons. The global leader in retail real estate has announced the expansion of its use of the Mobiquity Network to create “smart malls” in common areas of 200+ Simon retail destinations.

“The business problem we have is how do you differentiate yourself as a mall,” Patrick Flanagan, Vice President of Digital Marketing & Strategy at Simon Property Group, told me in an interview for my Mobilized Marketing book. “You can ask shoppers what they care about – why do they go to any particular mall?

“The first answer is distance. Well, you can’t really move a mall. The second one is the mix of stores – that’s a long term and challenging thing to change. The third one is the customer experience – it had better parking, it had free Wi-Fi, it had a better food court or cleaner bathrooms. Mobile is where we think we can ultimately differentiate as a business.”

During my book interview with Flanagan, he told me that personalization is a key driver to more visits and sales.

“In the future, I’m eager to do more one-to-one,” he said. Beacons will get him closer to that goal.

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