This week, Buzzfeed reported that New York City had authorized an advertising company to place 500 beacons on the sides of phone booths, which would send push notifications to phones that had the GameStop app on their phone every time they walk by a brick-and-mortar location.
Within 12 hours of the report, a city spokesman said the beacons would be removed.
Why the uproar over beacons? The problem is that they are a relatively new technology that consumers don’t fully understand. Highly targeted advertising, especially related to location, can give the impression that you are being “tracked,” when in fact that is not really the case.
“Beacons don’t track. Beacons are a way that any object can say ‘I am here,’ but you need to download the app,” Jules Polonetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum, explained. In fact, they might even be the most user-friendly of all new technologies, he told the International Business Times.
Our Director of Innovation Product Strategy and Marketing, Andrew Dubatowka, might agree. But he has a different take on the value of beacons – one that is very different from the activation we saw in New York this week.
Rather than being about the “here and now,” or real-time ad messaging, he thinks that beacons are really about creating new opportunities for marketers to build deeper audience segmentations, and to move into advanced location targeting.
As he wrote in an article that was published by StreetFight today:
Imagine being able to segment users and advertise to them at scale based on exactly where they have gone, when and how often. Maybe you want to target users who have been in your store in the past month, or who haven’t been in your store in the past month, or who go in your store once per month every month. Or maybe you want to target that fitness enthusiast who visits the gym everyday or that auto-intender who visited several car dealerships over the last few days.
An even more interesting advertising use case than in-store alerts is using advanced beacon data to hyper-target an audience across a broad set of mobile apps and sites, times of day and contexts. Finding that fitness addict when he is watching sports highlights, or reaching a loyal customer while she is checking the news are what we should be getting excited about.
Andrew also talks about the challenges of beacon implementation, one of which is gaining a critical mass of users for the brand’s native app. He says that once brands let go of that need – and also lets go of the focus on real-time messaging – it opens them up to so many different types of targeting, across a wide array of mobile inventory and contexts.
Curious about beacons and want to learn more? Read the whole article here.
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