Swirl Gets Patent for Location-Based Targeted Marketing with Beacons

Sometimes it pays to be early.

This can be especially true when it comes to the use of brand new technology either announced or introduced but not yet deployed.

Most of the secret sauce in dealing with such things involves vision and perspective along with execution.

At the annual mega tech event CES International held in Las Vegas each year, we see both technological marvels along with uses of technology that have virtually no chance of ever catching on.

Beacons are a great example of a technology that could be used for almost an infinite number of things.

Since the small, radio signal transmitting devices can wake an app in a smartphone and let the smartphone take it from there, companies of all types and sizes around the world were started to take what they saw as their best shot at beacon usage.

I’ve been writing about beacons since their early days in 2013, when PayPal was dabbling with its PayPal Beacon for mobile payments.

During that time I saw numerous beacon experimentation attempts, including using beacons in gas pumps to facilitate targeted messaging to consumers as they pumped their gas.

Several months before that, I came across a Boston startup named Swirl, since it had funded a market study focused on the in-store shopping behaviors of women.

Several months later, Swirl rolled out a national platform for retailers to deliver personalized content and offers to shoppers based on their locations within stores, thanks to beacons.

That launch followed beacon pilots at Alex and Ani, Kenneth Cole and Timberland.

In December 2013, another Swirl-funded study found that the majority (77%) of consumers would be willing to share their smartphone location data as long as they received enough value in return. Other following studies have found similar results.

Since that time, Swirl has launched major beacon platform deployments including at Lord & Taylor, Hudson’s Bay, Marriott International and Urban Outfitters.

“We invented the space,” said Hilmi Ozguc, founder and CEO of Swirl.

The company is backed by investments from Twitter, Simon, Hearst and SoftBank , including $18 million in the latest round of financing, bringing the total to $32 million to date.

At the beginning of all this, Swirl filed for a patent around beaconing and that patent was just issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The patent, titled “Systems and Methods for Display of Supplemental Content Responsive to Location,” describes the processes and technology for using beacons to trigger the delivery of targeted content to a mobile device based on a user’s location.

Yesterday I visited the new and greatly expanded office space of Swirl and I met with Ozguc  and Rob Murphy, vice president of marketing, for context and to see the patent, which comprises a large number of pages of technical documentation.

Both noted that Swirl was always conceived as an advertising platform for major retailers and that beacons just happened to be the most effective technology at the time to do that.

The company sees itself as a personalized content delivery company for retailers rather than a beacon company.

But it now has the patent to use beacons to do all of that.

Sometimes it pays to be early.



4 comments about "Swirl Gets Patent for Location-Based Targeted Marketing with Beacons".
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  1. Jack Crystal from Nielsen Audio, September 10, 2015 at 11:08 a.m.

    Hardly early. This is another slight variation on familiar patents that were granted years ago. The real question is whether it is defensible or not. The USPTO these days grants all kinds of patents that are indefensible. A small startup can use a patent to get venture capital investors but when the threat of law suites start to fly they usually run for the hills.

  2. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, September 10, 2015 at 2:43 p.m.

    Think positive Jack. Swirl is trying to change the World.

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, September 10, 2015 at 5:40 p.m.

    Thanks for your comments, Jack, though in this case Swirl is well-funded and the patent is specifically beacon related. So guess we will see over time.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, September 10, 2015 at 5:41 p.m.

    Well said, Leonard, that actually is the case.

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