By now you’ve probably heard of “beacons,” and how they allow advertisers to send targeted messages and offers to shoppers’ smartphones as soon as they enter a physical store. Today a deal has been struck which is about to make beacons a whole lot more interesting — and useful — for advertisers for when the shopper steps out of that store.
Norway-based startup media platform and ad server Unacast and California-based Total Communicator Solutions (a company that specialises in location-based marketing and claims to have more beacon installations than any other company. It counts P&G among its clients.) have today announced a global partnership to launch what they claim is an industry first: The ability for brands to “re-target” online and mobile ads to shoppers based on the actual items they have been looking at in-store.
Here’s how it will work: A shopper with a retailer’s app installed on their phone and Bluetooth turned on walks into a shoe store. If they have opted in for beacon messages, they’re greeted with a personalised message on their phone’s display.
They walk over to the men’s shoe department and are then served with a new message about the new line of designer brogues that have just arrived in-store.
And here’s the new bit: A day, a week, or a month later when that same customer goes online to have a look at a YouTube video. They are served a pre-roll video ad for that very same brand of brogues they were looking at in-store. They check the headlines on a newspaper website: Again, the very same shoes he was looking at appear in an ad, which says they’re available to buy now.
That’s 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. Now beacons are acting as the data collector to inform post-shopping ad campaigns.
Unacast is looking to sign up more beacon companies (known as proximity solution providers/PSPs) to create a global network to anonymously group and standardize beacon data to allow advertisers and retailers to retarget consumers online, based on their offline interactions.
Norway, where Unacast is based, has some of the strictest privacy laws in the world, so it’s quite the feat to be able to pull off a network like this. It manages it because all the data collected via beacons requires consent from the consumer within a retailer or brand’s app, and the company never shares a users’ location data with third parties, beyond their client (or third parties their client approves of.)
Unacast was found in Oslo last year by Thomas Walle Jensen and Kjartan Slette, who were previously part of the Spotify competitor WiMP Music’s management team.
The beacons market is set to be massive. BI Intelligence forecasts there will be 4.5 million beacons active in the US by 2018, with the majority of those (3.5 million) installed by retailers.