Proximity Marketing News (March Edition)
The most intriguing location-based tech stories brought to you as they happen.
Beacon-based Transport Alerts from Chrome
Google has been working for a while now on ways to bring more Bluetooth beacon projects into its ecosystem, including the launch of its Eddystone open beacon format and its concept of the “app-free” Physical Web. Today a vendor in the UK unveiled a new project that shows how transportation might fit into the picture.
Proxama, which operates a network of Bluetooth beacons in the UK, says has launched a new service called MyStop: transport alerts that come up automatically on your Android handset or iPhone if you have Chrome installed and Bluetooth turned on. Chrome is the first of these. Proxama claims that other browsers that will eventually support Physical Web notifications from Eddystone beacons include FireFox, Opera and Microsoft’s new Edge browsers — a collective move, it seems, to rival Apple and its own iBeacons strategy.
There are various ways today that you can use smartphones to get transportation information — for example transportation native apps, or SMS-based alert services, or web pages that you refresh. But the idea here, as with Google’s Physical Web project in general, is that you don’t need any of these.
The alerts just come to you, and you can modify them to fit your specific journey. It’s an interesting concept for how the future of mobile services might look, especially to a market of consumers who are later adopters and therefore less proactive mobile users, or are simply bored of having too many apps.
Indoor Location Tech’S Uphill Battle
Over the course of the past two years, as an investor at dunnhumby Ventures, I have spoken with dozens of startups, from Boston to Beijing, all innovating in the indoor location space. Given our fund’s focus on disruptive retail technologies, this space was of high interest to me. iBeacons are going to be the next great technology, right? They will enable retailers and brands to interact with you at the exact right moment, when the likelihood of conversion was the highest, right? In theory, yes. The challenge is not the desire to know this information, it’s the ROI of knowing this information and the insights necessary to make that message relevant.
iBeacon technology is the highest profile of the location technologies, but other tech, such as Wi-Fi, phone sensors, light bulbs, sound waves, and even electromagnetism, have emerged with similar goals of tracking a specific user, indoors, with relatively high location proximity. Camera tracking is another technology used to track user movement in-store but is generally focused on store operations and does not engage with the consumer. For this reason, I am leaving it out of this discussion — different budget, different problem.
Given that these technologies rely on a mobile application to facilitate the communication to the consumer, startups in this space have set their sights on retailers with a significant app user base, or more broadly, retailers large enough to build a significant app user base in the near future.
This refined focus has considerably shrunk the market opportunity for these companies and forced them to go “elephant hunting.” And they have priced their product accordingly. Smaller market opportunity means they need to price high in order to be financially sustainable. Herein lies the challenge; what is the dollar value of knowing a consumer is standing in front of the beans at a grocery store? Is a push notification that the beans are on sale going to do a better job of converting me than the bright yellow tag in red lettering, stating that the beans are in fact on sale? Maybe. But unless that message can be tailored to each person individually, that’s a fairly challenging ROI to prove, and at the moment, few in the space have the data necessary to make that calculation.
‘SXSW Recommends’ app Using iBeacons
Starting Friday, the first day of SXSW Interactive, the fest will launch a new location-based feature called SXSW Recommends that will make recommendations on festival content.
The feature works with the SXSW Go app and on the SXSW.com website. Within the app, it will utilize a set of more than 1,000 iBeacon devices, which are small wireless transmitters that use Bluetooth to offer location information and deployed across 600 SXSW venues.
What does this mean for SXSW attendees? Scott Wilcox, SXSW director of technology, says it will allow the app to deliver personalized event recommendations based on location, favorited events, time and popularity. It will seek out gaps in a attendees’ schedule using an algorithm developed by SXSW and send notifications about panels, shows and other programming.
“It will tell you why we’ve recommended an event,” Wilcox said. “With our ability to leverage geofencing technology, we can recommend things that are a good match for somebody that are also nearby.”
Last year, SXSW officials deployed the iBeacons across the festival to allow for attendees to get to know each other with features called Around Me and Attendee Match. Those using the app could opt-in to communicate with other people using the app with similar interests.
At the 2015 fest, the iBeacons had 7 million sightings (meaning how many times they detected a device nearby) and sent more than 400,000 proximity alerts, according to SXSW officials.
The fest will be sending out an email to attendees letting them know about the feature, which can be toggled on or off. Recommends is already working on the SXSW.com website, but the location-based feature will be activated on Friday.