Knowing “who” and “where” are just data points to get closer to “what.” Sophisticated algorithms use history, demographic information, visit frequency and dwell times to gauge the interest level in a product. In turn, this data is used to determine the timing and content of messaging with the hope of delivering the proverbial “right message at the right time.” But asking “what?” is the ultimate question of proximity marketing.
There is an alternative proximity technology that starts with the answer to “what.” It’s the Physical Web. And it may be the highest and best use of beacons. With it, the beacon broadcasts a URL that displays information that may be of interest to a consumer. If so, they select it. That choice tells us what is of interest and that we have the customer’s full attention. At the same time, the Physical Web can also supply answers to the questions of “where” and “who” to complete the interaction profile. Let’s look more closely at the Physical Web as a marketing technology.
Inbound vs. Outbound Proximity Marketing
Another way to compare iBeacon and geofences to the Physical Web is to look at who initiates the interaction. iBeacon is typically marketer-initiated. It is outbound marketing and begins with tracking a customer’s movements. Using their location, visit frequency, etc., to choose content, the marketer can then push what is hoped to be the right message.
Technology now allows consumers to block advertising and push marketing at will. To break through the noise, marketers must be a part of content people want. The best way to do this is to let them tell you what is of interest.
Inbound marketing means producing content of interest to a particular consumer profile, then having consumers seek that information and initiate contact. Along the same lines as blogs, newsletters, whitepapers, search engine optimized websites, and social media, the Physical Web is inbound. By producing content valuable to consumers, then “attaching” it to relevant locations or products, marketers are able to incentivize consumer engagement in-store. Because it begins with product and location, content can be made highly relevant. Further, because Physical Web interactions are consumer-initiated, they are positioned to fulfill needs and build loyalty. People know when they are being marketed to, just as they know when they are being helped or entertained. They appreciate an attentive brand.
The Physical Web Embraces Apps
One widely understood benefit of Physical Web beacons is that they can be deployed without apps. Their content can be accessed by Physical Web enabled browsers. A growing number of browsers such as Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Project Magnet, or Opera can scan for nearby Physical Web content.
What is not as well known is that the Physical Web is just as friendly to apps. The benefits of direct access content is easily extended to apps. An app can add a “nearby button” and allow users to immediately scan for nearby Physical Web content. What’s more, the Physical Web content available may be curated so that app users only see content relevant to the app versus the entire universe of Physical Web content. This makes for a quick way to add a content-rich, inbound proximity functionality to apps.
Surprisingly, the Physical Web is also the simplest proximity technology for native app development. It is possible to custom-brand a Physical Web browser and push it live to the app store in a couple of days. That time includes content creation and beacon installation, resulting in dramatic cost and time-to-market reductions compared to other mobile proximity campaigns. It also makes it possible to deploy content-rich native apps for small retailers, bars, events, etc., that cater to as little as a few hundred loyal patrons.
Rich Content Options
The speed and simplicity that content can be created and updated is a major benefit of the Physical Web. In most cases, content creation does not require a developer’s help. Because content is available to both apps and browsers, it is managed outside of both. This greatly simplifies content management by leveraging existing web tools. Content can incorporate any existing video, audio, and images. New content also can be quickly produced.
Given the breadth of Physical Web content options, including “Tap to order, if you don’t find your size,” “Tap to see today’s special,” “Tap to see a user video,” or “Tap to chat with a product specialist,” marketers can speedily deploy a range of digital tactics in physical stores to compete with online.
It is also possible to deploy a range of tactics involving physical interactions that simply are not possible online. Originally introduced under the catchphrase “walk up and use anything,” the Physical Web is well suited for interactive displays. Answering surveys in exchange for automatically dispensed candy, shopper control of interactive displays or personalized product instruction will become mainstream with the Physical Web.
Newest Dimension of the Web
The Physical Web is a new dimension of the web that opens a world of consumer initiated interactions. Because location and subject are known, marketers can focus on catering content to a specific audience, delivering what’s important to them, and what they love. Context makes this level of focus possible. It leads to closed-loop marketing initiatives and allows conversational marketing.
With inbound proximity marketing, customers come to you. Interesting location-relevant content is the fuel that creates these opportunities for engagement. Most importantly, it has the huge advantage of beginning an interaction with the answer to the all-important question of “what” the customer wants.