New Beacon Tech Directs Internet Advertising

By Rory Betteridge | 27 Jan 2015

Giving an item a closer look in a physical store may determine the ads you’re served online in the future, thanks to a new application of beacon technology from Norway.

Anyone that has followed my coverage of beacon technology in the past few months should be familiar with the concept by now; a customer visits a store, and beacons within the store forward marketing material, special offers and product information to the customer’s mobile device.

If a new arrangement between Norwegian media platform Unacast and Californian beacon company Total Communicator Solutions last week is to be understood, that reach could extend far beyond the physical store. In what they claim is an industry-first global partnership, they will provide the ability for brands to use beacon data to determine what ads appear on mobile and internet traffic, down to specific items the shopper looked at in-store.

“(This) will allow brands to use hyper-local, offline, customer data from beacon interactions to deliver relevant and targeted ads and content online,” claims a press release given to BusinessWire.

The service will work as follows: a shopper with a retailer’s app on their phone enters a shoe store, and if they’ve opted in for beacon messages through the app, will be greeted by a personalised message on their phone. As they approach the men’s shoe department, a new message is sent to them about the new line of designer shoes new to the store.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The next day, the next week, the next month, the customer is watching a YouTube video, or reading a news article, and an ad for the same new line of shoes is served to the customer, based on the beacon activity of the customer in-store however long ago.

“By combining the location-based marketing application with Unacast’s online/offline profiles, our clients will be able to connect to their customers in the store and then retarget the same customer online, with a more relevant and targeted ad, based on the customer’s recent offline behaviour,” Erik Bjontegard, President and Founder of Total Communicator Solutions, claimed in the press release. “This new ad server capability will help any retailer or brand to increase the accuracy and ROI of its advertising.”

Lara O’Reilly, commentator with Business Insider, calls the development huge.

“Until now, the utility of beacons has been limited to allowing retailers and brands to communicate with shoppers whilst they are in the store,” says O’Reilly. “Now beacons are acting as the data collector to inform post-shopping ad campaigns.”

Unacast is seeking out more beacon companies in the effort of forming a standardised global network for beacon data, which would allow marketers and retailers to retarget consumers online after their visit to a store. This is an ambitious goal for Unacast, based in a country with some of the strictest protections of citizen privacy in the world, which may only be possible with the pre-existing requirement of consent from the brand’s app itself before the system can be used to its maximum potential with a customer.

While the scheme certainly raises privacy concerns, this new application of beacon technology certainly should hold interest for retailers and marketers, with the potential for a nigh unprecedented level of targeted marketing.

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