Proximity Marketing in an Age of Walled Gardens

The promise of proximity marketing is huge. There wouldn’t be a week go by when we haven’t had one client or other engage us in a conversation about the power of iBeacons and Geo-fencing technologies. It’s not just in Retail either, Banks, Mobile companies (obviously), Universities, Churches… even Real Estate companies are exploring how this next wave of mobile marketing can be used. We always begin by bringing it right back to basics – as the reality is much more complex than the hype.

First things first – iBeacons aren’t a generic term, they are an Apple branded (and patented) technology.

It is often overlooked that each of the smartphone platforms have their own views, rules and technicalities when it comes to geo-location uses. Apple stole a march on the market with it’s aggressive activity around promoting iBeacons, and us such the term often becomes used generically for the whole concept rather than just Apple’s take on it.

Google launched Eddystone, it’s platform agnostic iBeacon competitor, in July this year. Windows Phone 10 is rumoured to have iBeacon functionality within it. However, Microsoft actually supports AllJoyn, an open source project that lets the compatible smart Internet of Things recognise each other and share resources and information across brands, networks, and operating systems. AllJoyn was initially developed by Qualcomm Innovation Center, and is currently backed by the AllSeen Alliance which includes Microsoft.

Secondly – The platforms make the rules.

There are plenty of examples of how each of the platforms have changed their minds, and direction, around any number of technology advancements. They do so for their own commercial gain and to maximise the chance that their platform eco-system dominates in the “winner take all” platform wars.

We experienced this first hand a number of years ago doing some preliminary work (that was really cool and promising) with a Telco in NZ looking at installing Bluetooth transmitters in concert venues and beaming promotional offers to music fans mobile phones, safe in the knowledge that they would reach around 50% of the audience. Google, via its Android mobile operating system and good old Apple with iOS soon put a stop to this practice by disabling the one-to-many proximity marketing functionality that Bluetooth technology afforded ‘back in the day’. They updated their respective mobile operating systems so that people have to agree to accept a message from the sender before getting the message – not exactly Snapchat! This made Bluetooth marketing too clunky for the instant gratification commanded by out of home consumers.

Thirdly – picking a single platform is a brave strategy, but developing for ALL of them is REALLY EXPENSIVE!

If you developed your strategy around actual market penetration of platform – Google would be the out and out winner. With over 80% penetration of Android they dwarf Apple’s 15%, and make the rest look fractional in comparison.

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This said, we have yet to meet any client that is prepared to go all in on smartphone apps and wants to leave iOS out!

Which means now you have two platforms to develop for, and once you are at two then the question about Windows Phone comes around – and then you are at three. And on it goes.

Most CEO’s still don’t understand that when they say “we need an app!” they are actually saying “we need to develop, fully, 3 different apps and make them all look, feel and function the same – and keep them all up to date constantly”.

Lastly, knowing all of this – how might we help you succeed?

Yeah, it is complicated. But no more so than the mobile game has always been (GSM vCDMA anyone?). Once we have everyone on the same page – acknowledging that careful strategy and decision making is required – we can then get on with the work of finding the solution.

This is not a sprint – it’s a distance race, and the winners will be the organisations that 1) commit to the longer term, 2) ensure user experience is at the core of everything and 3) conduct focussed experiments using new tools and techniques designed to improve that user experience AND achieve better business outcomes for them as a result.

Tags:   Marketing