Personalisation has changed the marketing landscape irreversibly. The idea of sending relevant information to people who want to hear it appeals far more to consumers and businesses alike, than its mass-mail, spammy alternative. It improves the customer experience, which in turn drives revenue for the brand. And personalisation itself continues to flourish and expand as technology enables, promising more and more with better and better control of exponentially increasing amounts of data.
Where will it end?
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the next step in the ongoing evolution of personalisation: iBeacons, and beacon technology in general. Despite the slower-than-expected market penetration, it is becoming increasingly prevalent and deployed by retailers (Tesco is the latest big brand to announce a forthcoming Beacons-related campaign). It has long been said that where brands like Tesco go, so others will follow, which tells me that beacons are about to take off.
Beacons represent a fundamental paradigm shift in the commercial application of personalisation. From the consumer perspective, introducing pinpoint accuracy of your customer’s location takes the underlying subtext of a personalised message from a relatively friendly “we know what you like”, to a more invasive “we know exactly where you are, right now”.
How will marketers deploy this new technology, and how will their efforts be received by their intended target prospects? The modern marketer sees personalised messaging as the route to better customer engagement – and rightly so (consumers are generally in favour of this tactic), so is there a risk that messages based on location will be seen as the ultimate personalisation? After all, the consumer is there, right now! Surely they’re fair game?
Just because people are in a certain department of a store, doesn’t mean that is what they are interested in.
Furthermore, brands risk cannibalising their own potential revenue, either by annoying store dwellers who may have bought were it not for the unwanted digital interruption, or, worse still, by encouraging app users to remove the app completely. Opting out of location targeting is even easier than unsubscribing from an email: Just two clicks and the app is removed from existence, most likely for good.
Just as better customer experience can drive revenue, so intrusive and negative behaviour can damage the customer experience, with the inevitable negative impact on ROI.
Location data will be invaluable to brands if used appropriately, and could prove fatal if not. Here are two ways in which beacon technology can be used to good effect:
Enrich existing data to deliver highly targeted messaging…
Use the knowledge of where your consumers are in the offline world, in conjunction with what you know about them online and across other channels, to deliver relevant messaging.
Don’t take every opportunity to send a push notification – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. You wouldn’t send an email every time someone visits your site, so make sure what you send is timely and relevant.
Combine offline data with other channels…
You don’t need to act on the data immediately. Use beacons to understand how an individual behaves offline, where they have been in the store, what they have shown interest in. Then tie this together with everything else you know about them, to become more relevant across every channel based on that information.
The next time they go online, the next email you send them, the next display ad they see can all be personalised based on the whole, based on what you’ve learned about them in the offline world, and in conjunction with what you know about them from all channels.
Beacon technology looks to be the next phase in the continuing evolution of personalised marketing, as offline data is brought further into the digital playing field. Ultimately, its application will determine its success, and brands need to tread carefully to ensure it is used responsibly.
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This post was written by James Carter.