RetailMeNot, Swirl Partner for Big Beaconing at Retail

The door to beaconing just swung open a lot wider.

The mega-digital-offers company RetailMeNot is partnering with beacon platform Swirl to extend beaconing at retail to a large scale.

This Austin to Boston connection promises to leverage the massive retail base of Texas-based RetailMeNot to let retailers tap into the beacon platform of Boston-based Swirl Networks.

RetailMeNot can effectively become a co-publisher with a retailer, with commercial messages or ads from brands riding along to highly targeted shoppers via the Swirl-powered platform.

That programmatic ad platform was introduced by Swirl late last year, as I wrote about here at the time (Beaconing & the Retailer Programmatic Ad Exchange). The idea is essentially to create a private ad exchange controlled by the retailer.



The teaming with RetailMeNot exponentially increases the scope of the Swirl Audience Network beyond Swirl’s current beacon-installed retail base of Timberland, Lord & Taylor, Hudson’s Bay, Alex and Ani and Urban Outfitters.

For context, here are a few a recent numbers from each of the two companies:

  • 137% -- The size of the growth of mobile revenue of RetailMeNot for the quarter just ended
  • 18 Million – The number of active monthly users of RetailMeNot
  • $18 Million – The latest round of financing Swirl received from SoftBank, Twitter Ventures and Hearst Ventures
  • $32 million – Total funding Swirl has received to date

I spoke with the CEOs of the two companies yesterday, each of whom raved about the capabilities and value of each other’s company.

Both separately stressed that the idea is not to bombard shoppers with beacon-triggered messages but to improve the in-store shopping experience by providing highly relevant messaging based on location, personal interests and desires to receive such messaging.

“We work with the retailers and target specific campaigns for specific customers,” said Cotter Cunningham, CEO and founder of RetailMeNot. “Our app is contextually relevant.  A person just walking by should not trigger a beacon event. It should be relatable to you.”

“This allows the retailer to provide micro-level promotions,” Cunningham said.

While beacons allow such promotions to occur almost anywhere in a store, it’s the precision, timing and relevancy that matters.

“For most of our customers, our platform really matters in the aisles of stores,” said  Hilmi Ozguc, founder and CEO of Swirl. “This is an amazing alignment of vision with RetailMeNot. They have something like 50,000 relationships with retailers and brands and they can now provide beaconing for any retailer or mall.”

One of the challenges for many companies using beacons is to get customers to use certain apps, those designated to work with a particular beacon.

For example, music recognition app Shazam partnered with beacon-maker Gimbal a few months back so that a Gimbal beacon could trigger messaging via Shazam.

Groupon also is letting merchants use beacons to launch targeted promotions.

The question is whether a consumer will be surprised to see something like a store coupon come through an app like Shazam or Groupon as they enter a particular store or department.

In a different approach and one more similar to the RetailMeNot-Swirl venture, mobile retail platform InMarket links with specific shopping apps for its beacon messaging.

The reasoning is that while shopping, that type of app is much more likely to be used and be a logical place from which to receive shopping related messaging.

The apps using InMarket have an active monthly user count of 32 million, as audited by comScore.

No matter the source, millions of shoppers are destined to receive beacon-triggered messages.

It’s also likely that outside entities with a large number of regular users, like RetailMeNot, will provide the doorways to mass beaconing.

As the beacon market matures, the longer-term promise is that a consumer in the parking lot, in the mall and then in various stores inside the mall has a similar, beacon-triggered mobile engagement experience.

That experience is not likely to originate with any one retailer’s app, no matter how big the retailer.

“Few retailers have enough app downloads to scale,” said Cunningham.

No matter how you measure it, the beaconing numbers are graduating up.

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