There is always a craze that gets everyone excited in mobile marketing, and right now it's iBeacons. The technology certainly sounds exciting, but I'm still wondering exactly how far removed we are
from Bluetooth services that were going to beam offers to us all as soon as we entered stores.
I'm also not too sure how far we've moved away from the endless references to the movie
Minority Report that used to be rolled out every time Bluetooth or any other form of near field communications (NFC) was mentioned. The question the tech companies that were -- and still are -- trying
to sell markteters a direct route in to consumers' phones is whether or not this is actually something consumers wanted. Do people really want to have messages flash up on their phone every time
there's an offer in the store they have just walked by? And how does the tech know what they're shopping for? An offer might be useful one day and totally annoying the next.
On the face of
it, iBeacon offers may sound useful, but how many people find the alerts they have somehow allowed to appear on their phone screen just a little annoying? The screen can soon fill up with the
duplicate headlines from competing news brands, notification that someone has "favourited" a tweet or a new level has opened up in some obscure game you can't remember downloading.
what got me just a little puzzled about Pernod Ricard trialling iBeacons. How would they know the people they beam out offers to are interested in a rum cocktail just because they're at an event?
Couldn't an offer simply have been put up on a chalkboard?
I'm not saying iBeacons don't serve a purpose, because it's clearly useful to have communications between opt-in customers and
their mobile devices. I'm just not too sure that the lion's share of the work marketers hope they will do originates in-store. Or at least if it originates in-store, I can't see how you can rely on
push. Surely a note that there are offers in the area should be the mechanism by which users are alerted so they can fire up an app and see what the offers are? If they arrive individually, won't it
just appear to be a crazy free for all as we move from one store to another?
I just have a horrible feeling that iBeacons are going to give us the same talking points we've already
gone over time and again with Bluetooth.
Remember -- we're in the age of digital now and if you're not completely focussed on the customer, you'll lose sight of him or her and lose their
patronage also. If the technology isn't used to give them something they need, it won't be used.
So shouldn't iBeacons be all about a way of communicating with people in a useful way? Say,
if people are on loyalty schemes you could get a personalised welcome with a state of your account... "just 50 points from earning those new shoes" might be the means of doing this. Shouldn't iBeacons
be about storing a voucher you've had emailed to you or that you've looked up on the store's app? Rather than produce a phone and fire it up, how about an iBeacon just recognises you and takes the
money off the item automatically? How about it captures your information when asking whether an item is in stock and then lets you know when it's back on the shelves?
I'm just not sure that
money-off vouchers are going to cut it as the means through which iBeacons get traction. Vouchers are spammy and they're just too random, unless they're specifically pulled in by the mobile owner from
a collection offered on a voucher site or store app.
As mobile begins to offer payment facilities in-store (PayPal) app and out-of-store (think Powa) surely there must be a way of using
iBeacons to handle payment, take reservations, making click and collect as seamless as possible, make recommendations and generally assist the customer as well as handle money-off vouchers.
If you're going to do anything in digital it has to be useful. It has to serve a need.
So for iBeacons to work, in my opinion, they will have to go way beyond chancing their luck
with offers and vouchers. They're going to have to be helpful and appeal to shoppers at a far higher level than that exhibited by the coupon chaser.