Proximity marketing: How we'll find out where you are and how you feel

The digital universe is expanding rapidly. Advances in mobile technology will let companies target, profile and interact with customers in exciting ways, says Neil Bruce, head of mobile at Mindshare

Proximity marketing: How we'll find out where you are and how you feel

The concept of proximity marketing is not a new one, and it is already extremely important to us in our mission to invent the future of media with our clients.

For several years we have utilised tactical mobile messaging and geo-targeted mobile display activity to nudge a consumer in-store at the point of purchase, or to amplify the impact of an out-of-home placement. This was Location 1.0.

As mobile technology becomes more prevalent, and the internet of things grows, the concept of proximity marketing as we know it will change. Proximity 2.0 will be much more sophisticated and allow us to profile and interact with consumers in new and exciting ways.

There will be a variety of ways in which this will occur. The proliferation of public WiFi and advances in mobile network technology will allow us to become more sophisticated in the ways with which we profile and target consumers on mobile devices.

With recent changes to the beacon ecosystem, there are opportunities available to us that will finally make Bluetooth low-energy technology a viable proposition for marketers, and as the internet of things grows, location data from non-mobile connected objects can be used to add an additional layer of intelligence to location targeting.

These can be expanded upon as follows:

Geo-prospecting and attribution

By utilising a combination of GPS and WiFi data, we will be able to profile consumers based on their real-world geographical behaviours, target them on the move and at home with display advertising, and then directly attribute the uplift in store footfall that our advertising has driven.

For example, an automotive manufacturer would be able to determine that a consumer is in the market to purchase a car based on their visit to a competitor’s showroom, and educate them about their vehicles. As public WiFi networks grow, the sophistication of these geo-profiling tools increases.

We are now able to target high-street retailers in a similar fashion – based on a combination of proximity and dwell time.

Will 2016 be a make-or-break year for beacons?

A lot has been said about beacons over the past few years, but apart from a few tests, beacons have failed to gain traction in the UK market so far. However, some recent developments have breathed new life into beacon technology and made it more of a viable proposition to businesses.

These developments are twofold: First, the need to run a beacon via a native app has been removed by both Apple (where a passbook pass now works) and Google (through Eddystone – a new open multiplatform packet format).

Second, as the proliferation of connected devices (smartwatches, fitness trackers, etc) increases, more and more people will have Bluetooth switched on at all times. It is now estimated that 30pc of UK smartphone users have their Bluetooth switched on at all times, and this figure continues to grow.

We see several use cases for beacon technology in 2016:

  • Delivering useful, real-time information: Beacon technology can be combined with data to deliver real-time updates. For example, a finance brand could let a prospective homebuyer know what the mortgage rate would be on a property they are viewing
  • Creating immersive experiences: instead of the beacon delivering a message to a customer’s smartphone, the smartphone will merely alert the beacon to the person’s presence and deliver an experience through other channels. For example, if a brand has sponsored a festival or event, a personalised welcome message can be projected on to a screen.
  • Improving customer service: when a customer comes into a store, beacon technology will send pertinent information to a member of staff ’s smartphone or tablet. For example, if a customer has a click-and-collect item on hold, the member of staff will be alerted as they enter the store, and have the item ready for collection when the customer reaches the desk.

Location, wearables and the internet of things

The digital universe (the amount of information stored on the internet) is growing exponentially. Between now and 2020, we anticipate a tenfold increase in its size, from 4.4 to 44 zettabytes. To date, the growth of the digital universe has been powered by the growth of mobile technology.

Mobile will continue to contribute to this growth. However, over the next five years, it will be the growth in wearable technology and non-hubbed (internet of things) objects that contributes most. Biometric data from smartwatches will know what your emotional state is at any given time. Smart thermostats will know when you’re heading home and switch on your central heating.

And smart vehicles will know where you’re driving, when, and how fast. The potential media applications of this haven’t been lost on Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, which are rushing to monetise the internet of things. Google’s acquisition of Nest for $3.2bn in2014 is a case in point.

We expect to see insight gleaned from Nest devices, and from Nest’s partnership with Automatic (a connected car device) used to power Google’s advertising products. Wearable technology also provides an interesting angle for brands that are experimenting with location targeting.

One of the most interesting cases for wearable technology is the biometric data that it produces. During Wimbledon this year, Jaguar supplied crowd members with bespoke wristbands that captured their heartbeat, location and the ambient noise on each court – enabling Jaguar to pinpoint the moments of excitement, tension and heartbreak throughout the tournament.

It is likely that in 2016, biometric data produced by wearable technology will become more readily available, meaning that brands could follow in Jaguar’s footsteps and target wearers in certain moods and locations.

Constantly evolving ideas for location marketing 

There are many more ways in which mobile and wearable technology will continue to evolve over the next year or two. In a utopian world, we would be able to switch on and off our digital out-of-home activity in real time as relevant prospects pass by.

This would require a large amount of work, but signals the direction in which we need to take our location-based marketing efforts. Exciting, if slightly Orwellian, times ahead…