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UK brands are exploring how to use mobile marketing too Beacons to push targeted to shoppers via Bluetooth.

High profile brands such as Macy’s, Timberland and Clarks are actively testing the tool, which can target shoppers within a closer range than is possible with technologies such as GPS, in the US to quantify the impact it has on in-store sales. Current trials range from tracking customer dwell time in stores to targeting aisle-specific coupons to iPhone and Android devices.

Marketers are hesitant to delve into specific results just months into the tests but the growing number of announcements from the region suggests many see it as a massive opportunity for more sophisticated targeting.

Brands in the UK, however, are said to have adopted a “wait and see” approach to using Beacons in order to gain more insight on how to leverage the data given the privacy implications. Despite the apprehension, a small number of advertisers are looking to steal a march on their rivals through upcoming initiatives.  

Cadbury owner Mondelez is looking at how it can use Beacons to boost impulse sales as part of a wider marketing shift to cheaper digital channels.

A spokeswoman for the snacks maker says: “We are looking at it closely as we see a lot of potential in this type of technology.  We see mobile disrupting consumers’ path-to-purchase as well as in-store experience, from the aisle to the register.”  

William Hill is going a step further using Apple’s iBeacons tool to trigger in-app messages and real-time betting information at this month’s Cheltenham Festival. Meanwhile, Conde Nast is understood to have tested Beacons on the pages of Vogue last month.

Coca-Cola’s first use of Beacons in the UK is likely to come through its World Cup sponsorship campaign. The drinks maker is looking to iBeacons for ways it can make its in-store promotions more dynamic.

Simon Miles, Coca Cola Enterprise’s digital director, says: “We are considering iBeacons as part of our activity this year, as we know there are some great opportunities to bring our biggest campaigns, such as the World Cup, to life at retail fixtures using emerging digital technologies.

“Beacons are an exciting way for retailers and brands to reach customers at point of purchase. To be successful however, it’s essential that suppliers provide new and original content to really engage with consumers.”

Outdoor advertisers and media owners are also entering the mix with beacon management and consulting on top of offering hardware and software platforms. Exterion Media, formerly CBS Outdoor, is looking to conduct trials with brands later this year to glean consumer reaction, behaviour and insight. It declined to give further details but says the tech is potentially more “consumer friendly” than NFC and therefore more suited to commercial advertising.

Mobile marketing experts say it remains to be seen how shoppers will respond to the technology and whether they will bother to download the apps needed to receive content.

Already, more than 200 million iOS devices can act as receivers and transmitters, while third party developers have built beacons compatible with both Apple and Android devices.

Owen Geddes, founder of Appflare, which claims to have supplied the UK’s first in-store Beacons through its tie-up with Weve and food chain Eat, says retailers will need to add extra layers of data protection to prevent security breaches.

He adds: “Because Beacon signals can essentially be picked up by any phone this could leave a back door open to hackers and rogue apps if robust counter measures aren’t in place. People are bombarded with messages to their phones everyday so brands will need to make sure the highly targeted incentives and benefits on offer are properly communicated to users to drive take-up.”

Beacons examples

  • Clarks (US) – Prompting users to download their app as soon as they walk in-store
  • Macy’s (US) – Tracking customer journeys in-store and serving location-specific offers.
  • Coca-Cola (global) – Testing the use of iBeacons as part of tis World Cup campaign.
  • William Hill (UK) – Targeting real-time content to visitors to the Cheltenham Festival.
  • Eat (UK) – Targeting customers with messages through Weve’s loyalty app.
  • Paypal – Launched its “Beacon” app letting users make contactless payments.