The War Over Mobile Marketing Air Space Is Coming To A Mall Near You
WiFi, cellular Bluetooth…Oh, my!
How many different channels of mobile communication will be vying for your attention in coming years as you enter a shopping mall? The shopping mall WiFi? Or the SSIDs coming from individual retailers and restaurants? The iBeacons and PayPal nodes pinging you in store? The geo-triggered apps detecting your presence via the cellular network? The out-of-home poster stations begging you to tap for an NFC handoff or to scan a code and trying to wake up your Bluetooth? A person’s phone could well find itself in an air war over wireless airspace in the coming years as countless players and interests discover the opportunity to market to shoppers in that last 50 yards to point-of-sale.
Or maybe it will be Mobiquity’s network of Bluetooth units current set up at over 75 Simon Malls outlets. This is a company that actually has been practicing for the mobile air war for a while. CEO Michael Trepeta and the BT tech cut its teeth going back to 2007 following bands like Def Leppard and running mobile enhancements at events in sports arenas. While others were investing in WiFi, cellular or 2D code activations of physical space, “We took a gamble in believing Bluetooth was going to be the prominent form of delivering content,” he says.
With Apple’s introduction of the BT-based AirDrop phone to phone transfers and its rollout of BT LE iBeacons at retailers, he feels the bet is coming in. The company announced this morning it is extending and expanding its deal with Simon Malls to have exclusive rights to the mobile marketing real estate at key locations through 2017.
Mobiquity has proprietary technology that puts BT units with operating systems in poster kiosks, in mall walls and over storefronts. About 5% to 8% of mobile phones entering a mall are alrerady set to have their Bluetooth on and discovery mode enabled. These are the conditions that allow a Mobiquity node to ask a user if they would like to get specific content from a certain brand. The user must opt in to receive the content. The nides can even communicate the user’s wishes or previously seen content to other units in the mall so the same user is not bothered again. And unlike most smartphone-centric methods, simple Bluetooth transfers also reach those antediluvian flip phones too.
Trepeta says that the calls to action work especially well for store specials and information about items on the store shelves. But entertainment has been a big win for this method of content distribution. BT signals coming from an in-mall movie poster can deliver not only a trailer but a calendar reminder for when the film premieres. “We already have hundreds of thousands of downloads,” he says.
The company has not even started trying to move the needle beyond that 5% to 8% whose phones are in discoverable mode. In early tests however Mobiquity found that users are receptive to basis signage explaining how to put their phones into the right mode. “We saw an over 25% increase in interactions and downloads,” he says.
Trepeta believes that Apple will help accelerate acceptance and educate the market for peer-to-peer content transfers. “I think we will start hearing people say ‘AirDrop me.’ And that function is what our units do all day long.” He also believes that Apple may commercialize the AirDrop functionality in some way eventually as well. “They will validate and spike adoption rates and go a long way to increase trust in what we do in the common areas of the mall.”
Trepeta admits that there is a war looming over mall airspace. Malls, individual retailers, WiFi hotspot operators, Apple, Google, out-of-home networks and others are all scrambling for those last yards before people make their purchase. He argues that a single source of offers via mall-wide Bluetooth will prove more convenient and efficient for consumers than countless WiFi access points vying for attention.
Even the sexy BT iBeacons that Apple may be offering store owners only work in tandem with specific apps in the store. He counters that most people really don’t want to have apps for every store they like on their phone. Anyway, he adds, most people tend to use their apps before they go into the store. Despite the growing role of mobile at retail there may be one eternal aspect of consumerism. When people opt to go to the store rather than shop online, they are there to look at and handle things, not stare at a screen.