Do you know your place? Facebook does.
Thanks to a combination of cellular networks, Wi-Fi and GPS data, a Facebook app called Place Tips provides you with myriad information about where you’re at, such as posts from friends who have been there, menu items from nearby restaurants and upcoming events.
As TNW reports, it’s sort of like using Yelp or Foursquare, but you don’t have to look anything up. Facebook knows where you are and what you might want, and has done the looking up for you.
As part of the Place Tips app, Facebook is currently testing the incorporation of Bluetooth beacons installed at select businesses that provide product details and sales promotions information to potential customers.
Related Article: Retargeting in Real Life: Beacons and Big Brother
Beacons and Bluetooth: A Match Made in Retail Heaven
Facebook isn’t the only company deploying beacons. Indeed, Apple announced its iBeacon (what else would they call it?) in 2013 for its iOS smart devices, based on protocols developed by Bluetooth, which have since been adopted by most hardware vendors. The devices themselves are powered by batteries or a fixed power source, and are triggered whenever a smartphone enters the device’s broadcast range. Bluetooth envisions the use of smart beacons in retail as encompassing “everything from in-store analytics to proximity marketing, indoor navigation and contactless payments.
Think about a customer who is looking at a new TV and he/she gets a text with a 5 percent off coupon for that same TV and then pays automatically using an online account. Retailers are also looking at using beacons to unlock dressing rooms, or even prepare your favorite drink when you walk into the coffee shop.”
At its most basic, the technology enables customer interaction that integrates three key shopping experiences:
- Detection of location to know what customers are looking at
- Identification of customer needs (through answers given via the app by the customer)
- Easy and convenient checkout via smartphone payment
We haven’t yet mentioned the wealth of marketing data retailers can amass, as well as the ability to quickly reposition in response to real-time sales analytics. Mashable notes that it’s no longer necessary to spend time and money to pre-test ad and promotional campaigns. In-store email and text promotions and coupons can be automatically triggered in response to low traffic patterns, and taken down as soon as purchasing returns to normal expected levels.
Related article: Showrooming: Mobile Shopping Takes Over Brick-and-Mortar
Thanks to “mesh beacons” that employ the latest Bluetooth technology, that interaction is becoming even more dynamic. Venture Beat reports that mesh beacons can interact not only with someone’s Bluetooth 4.0 or higher smartphone, but also other beacons as well as other smartphones, websites and cloud applications. It’s not limited to the location’s Wi-Fi network.
So if you’re looking for information about a product, you could tap an app and download the most current pricing information based on an update from the store’s website, as opposed to a pre-programmed text that may not address exactly what you are looking for. The technology could possibly even connect you to a live customer service rep who knows exactly what you’re looking for by pulling up your real-time shopping profile.
A New Meaning of “In Real Life Marketing”
IRL Marketing has come to mean anything that integrates fictional and virtual environments with the real. This can be anything from guerilla marketing tactics where, for example, covert “brand ambassadors” pretend to order a particular drink and talk up its refreshing qualities, without necessarily disclosing they are being paid to do so, to a life-sized version of Angry Birds. Use of smart beacons falls somewhere in between. Given the proportion of time people spend interacting with their mobile devices, the use of geo-location services and smart beacons may actually provide a more “realistic” experience than either of these two extremes.
A Better Shopping Experience
Brick and mortar stores aren’t going away. As The New York Times reports, “Even e-commerce zealots are acknowledging there is something to a brick-and-mortar location.” You can’t feel the fabric and fit online; the recent resurgence of vinyl records and stores that stock them point to the value of tangibility over downloading.
But integrating the best of both offline and online worlds is most likely the future of retail. Here’s why.
- People still like to shop. Even Millennials, who you’d think would much rather just click. According to a survey reported in WebPro News, 68 percent of respondents aged 18 to 25 said they’d rather shop in a store that online for apparel and shoes. Plus, for many, shopping is as much a social activity as it is a need to buy something.
- It’s cost-effective. You don’t need to pay someone to stand around and offer samples or answer customer questions. And you don’t need to worry that your customer-service levels are declining because people aren’t showing up for work.
- Consumers are comfortable with the technology. Not so long ago, the idea of a geo-location service pinpointing where you are seemed Big Brotherish, if not downright creepy. Today, we have GPS installed in our phones and in our cars and depend on it to get us where we need to go. It’s not just a convenience, but a necessity of daily life.
- Privacy concerns are not paramount. As a matter of routine, people divulge personal and professional details online all the time. Again, it’s a price we’re willing to pay for convenience. We don’t care if the store knows what aisle we’re in. In fact, we’re happy about it because instead of looking all around to find a sales associate, all we have to do is text to get the information we’re looking for. And, besides, we always have the option to turn it off. Chances are, most won’t.
- Everybody has a smartphone. Well, okay not quite everyone. But the few exceptions don’t matter. It used to be unthinkable not to advertise in mass media. Today, it’s unthinkable not employ the technological tools that can precisely pinpoint your customers, and provide them exactly with what they need.