Technology is only as good as the marketer’s strategy

What is Apple’s most famous product? The iPhone, which took smartphones out of the boardroom and put them in every pocket? What about iTunes, the digital media system that racked up sales of more than £10bn in 2013?

Ruth Mortimer

Or could it be iBeacon? The brand’s location-based marketing tool has seen a flurry of retailers take it up in the past few weeks. William Hill, Game and Nandos have all started using the technology in the UK, while big advertisers such as Coca-Cola and Mondelez are investigating how they can use it.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the lure of the Beacon so far, it’s essentially a technology that interacts with a smartphone’s Bluetooth technology and pinpoints where the user is. This ‘wakes up’ a relevant app and sends notifications to the phone.

Beacon finally seems to offer brands the efficient location-based marketing long promised by technologies such as near-field communication and standard Bluetooth. In-store Beacon ads garner much higher cost-per-thousand rates than mobile banner ads, suggests Forrester research into Beacon, released this week.

The Forrester report also states that open rates and redemption rates for mobile coupons triggered by Beacons have skyrocketed. Swirl, a beacon solution provider, says its pilots with major retailers have yielded a 75 per cent open rate for mobile offers, with a 35 per cent redemption rate.

But before you roll out the Beacons, remember some fundamental marketing lessons.

  1. This is a conversation tool, not just a technology. While Beacon may be implemented through Bluetooth, the ability it gives to talk to the customer may affect the marketing team, customer services, the ecommerce team, the retail staff and even the finance team. Make sure you have mapped out your customer journey and have all teams in place to play their part.
  2. Create a priority list. Beacons can be used to offer discounts within retailers, change buying behaviour, confirm shopper identity, pick up online orders and so on. Pick which fits your wider goals and start with one aim, rather than trying to achieve all of them in one fell swoop.
  3. Understand how far you can push your consumers. A phone is a personal item and with so many retailers and advertisers turning to Beacon it will be easy to overwhelm even the most excited shopper with communications.

So will the iBeacon be Apple’s greatest innovation? Well, it’s all in the implementation by others – however exciting the new technology, it all comes down to the old-fashioned skill of understanding customer psychology and needs.

And with psychology in mind, we have a columnist making her first appearance this week. Nathalie Nahaï is a psychologist specialising in digital behaviour; she will be providing insights into consumer thinking and debunking common misconceptions to arm marketers with the rigour they need to plan their strategies.