Proximity Marketing is hot. Each day brings a new article promising the coming days when every store you go into will set your phone vibrating with advertising. Proximity marketing is delivering content to a user, usually via mobile, when they are in close proximity to a product or place.
To many people, this is the picture of proximity marketing: users enter a store and their phone buzzes with an ad and miraculously the user buys that item. Why wouldn’t they? Their phones told them to. It’s easy to sell this vision to the press and to investors, it feels like that scene from Minority Report.
After two years at Sonic Notify, dedicated to creating best practices in proximity marketing, I can confirm, confidently, that this vision is useless. The problem is not the technology; our system can be used to deliver exactly that. The problem is the insensitive approach that many retailers are taking to delivering marketing campaigns through this channel and, as a result, are creating shopper shock and revulsion that drives away success. The content and manner of delivery are much as important as the technology and that is largely being lost in the recent discussions of iBeacons etc.
Stay Out Of The Way
The best uses of a proximity marketing system is not with in-your-face offer blasts. It is, instead, marketing messaging and communications that enhance the shopping experience and that make purchase decisions easier, more confident, and faster. Lets say you have Retailer X’s mobile app; you walk down the beauty product aisle at a brisk clip arriving at shampoo. If Retailer X’s app sends a notification about soap then the user is not well served. If instead the app does nothing, and the next time the user opens the app they are provided independent ratings on what shampoos are best for what hair types, and which are having special promotions, then the shopper receives enhanced value. It’s nothing revolutionary – retargeting has been performing well for years in the digital world and now we can provide it for the physical world too. And if your proximity solution and messaging aren’t providing that level of value to the shopper, then your shoppers will abandon you.
Help The Consumer
That’s not to say that notifications are bad, the perfect notification is a helpful reminder. At Sonic Notify, one of our largest customers is a world class recipe app. Lets say the customer has the app and they spent the last few days browsing and revisiting fruit pie recipes, even favoriting some. Then when the customer is in the fruit section at a grocery store, a notification with their favorited recipe and a coupon for items on the list are just the kind of messages that help the consumer, leveraging loyalty data to ensure relevance. Otherwise it’s spam.
Be Useful, Don’t Be Stupid
A blatant faux-pas in proximity marketing is happening right now in the field, and from a world leader in marketing – Apple. Download the Apple Store app and walking into an Apple Store. I did this on my brand new iPhone 5S Gold that I had purchased a week earlier at that very store. So what messaging did I get when I walked into the store? “ Do you want to upgrade your phone to a iPhone 5S?” Really?
There was an opportunity to provide me real value and to upsell me on new peripherals for my new phone with a new power adaptor that renders all of my prior peripherals obsolete.
Proximity Marketing is here and is powerful, but only as long as brands and retailers are smart. We spend a lot of time guiding our retailers in this area. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Lets not clobber people over the head with irrelevant offers. Lets provide useful communication that enhances the shopping experience – leveraging all of the best of digital marketing in the physical space. We can make the right decisions now so that people find value and look forward to proximity marketing, as opposed to their deeply held resentment of billboards, banner ads, and TV spots.