As Brands Get More Comfortable With Beacons, Best Practices Begin To Emerge

EnergizerBeaconsThe same rules in life apply to beacon advertising programs: Don’t be annoying or people are going to leave the party.

“You’d just delete the app if you got seven push notifications in one place,” said Rachel Pasqua, practice lead for mobile and emerging technology at MEC Global, North America. “We’re speaking as an agent for our clients, and the biggest potential pitfall of these types of activations is that the user gets too inundated.”

MEC keeps that caveat and others mind as it engages in beacon-related tests for clients – some of which are starting to see the benefits. But let’s be honest: Despite recent hype, beacons exist mostly as one-offs.

Still, as brands like Energizer try their hand at the technology and begin to see positive results, some best practices are at least beginning to emerge. These will be crucial if beacons are ever to proliferate as always-on marketing strategies instead of the experiments they currently are.

MEC client Energizer used beacons (via beacon marketing platform inMarket) to boost awareness and generate purchase intent lift when it launched its eco-friendly EcoAdvanced recycled batteries. Or at least, it integrated beacons into a six-month nationwide campaign that also included online assets, TV and print – tracking clicks and basic exposure metrics.

The beacons were designed to reach in-store prospects, and Energizer saw positive results – 410,000 shoppers engaged when entering a US retail location, generating a 3.8x overall increase in post-engagement purchase intent for the brand’s new product.

Push Isn’t Perfect

So what did Energizer actually learn from this, besides the fact that the technology is still maturing? Well, for one, Apple’s developer guidelines affect the way beacons work.

In the case of the Energizer campaign, consumers within the beacon’s radius were prompted to open certain shopping apps owned by or partnering with inMarket (provided they had those apps installed on their devices). Once opened, they’d be offered a piece of content, like a coupon, accessible once they viewed a full-screen Energizer ad.

But because Apple’s developer guidelines forbid serving third-party marketing messages within push notifications, Energizer couldn’t target, say, consumers most likely to buy its batteries. The targeting parameters were much broader: people within the vicinity who had installed an app in inMarket’s network.

“At least for right now, it’s not perfect,” said Angel Grant, a partner and senior director of digital strategy at MEC, and also the digital lead on the Energizer account. “It’s a little random, but at least it’s getting us in front of someone when they’re in a store that has Energizer products.”

There are, however, workarounds. Apple’s new Wallet app in iOS 9 lets an advertiser push dynamic, geotargeted offers directly to users who have added that brand to their Passbook.

So instead of having to use its own app (a moot point, since Energizer doesn’t have one) or to rely on a third-party app network, Passbook essentially becomes the delivery point for targeted ads.

In the future, MEC might experiment with getting users to add Energizer to their Passbook first and then target them more directly using beacons through that integration, said Pasqua.

“This campaign was an important benchmark for us,” she said. “[But] we’re trying to move toward more experiential and contextual forms of media, especially when it comes to mobile.”

Everything In Moderation

The Clorox Co. is another advertiser that’s playing around with beacons, working with inMarket to promote its sub-brands Hidden Valley Ranch and Soy Vay during back-to-school season this year.

SoyVaybeaconShoppers were encouraged to add Hidden Valley and Soy Vay products to their shopping lists via ListEase during the pre-shopping phase. When they reached the store, a push notification reminded them of the items on their list. Clorox used the opportunity to serve up a recipe including Hidden Valley or Soy Vay as an ingredient and encourage shoppers to scan the products in CheckPoints, a Shopkick-like app created by inMarket.

But it’s somewhat of a delicate dance between providing value and pushing the push that might be one push too many.

“Interrupting someone with an advertising message that doesn’t enhance or supplement the experience could cause a negative response,” said Molly Hop, VP of emerging media and commerce at TPN, Clorox’s shopper agency of record. “If we’re not careful with push, they could become like the new pop-up – and we absolutely don’t want to participate in that.”

InMarket takes frequency capping seriously, said Todd Dipaola, the company’s CEO and co-founder. The math is simple: one push per person per store per trip – any more turn the experience from a value add to simply bad.

While a single beacon-related push notification in-store can increase engagement by around 45%, generating more than one beacon push per location can lead to a more than 300% drop in app usage, according to research conducted by inMarket across 1,500 shoppers in its network.

“We’ve found that a single push when someone enters a store feels beneficial – a reminder like a gentle tap on the shoulder about a recipe or a coupon or a shopping list,” Dipaola said. “But if that same tap on the shoulder keeps coming, people start to use the app less frequently.”

In that sense, the motivation to opt out of push is quite similar to one the abiding motivations behind blocking ads. And if a user decides to turn off push because of a bad experience with one advertiser, that means that other more responsible advertisers are also cut off from that person.

“Beacons could spiral if we’re not sensitive to the user experience,” MEC’s Pasqua said. “It’s something we will continue to ask our partners about to make sure that they’re driving value for users.”

That said, push does seem to have its place. According to a survey released by circular shopping app Retale on Tuesday, 84% of millennials act on push notifications that come via location-based apps, with 61% preferring information related to coupons, discounts and deals that they can use immediately in the moment.

As long as advertisers and retailers are responsible in their use of beacons, there could be a lot to gain, said Sarah Ortman, associate director of marketing communications at Clorox.

“Mobile devices are a lifeline for consumers and they offer a huge opportunity in terms of delivering messaging when someone is lower down in the funnel,” Ortman said. “We’ll always have TV, print and other traditional media in the marketing mix, but we see beacons as a chance to intercept her when she’s at the shelf. We see beacons as an aperture into the in-store experience.”

Still Searching For Scale

Beacons worked fairly well for Energizer because the target market was fairly general. “In terms of the audience, Energizer is for pretty much anyone,” Grant said.

But MEC also works on the Edgewell Personal Care account – formerly Energizer's personal care unit; it was spun off into a separate company in July – which includes brands like Skintimate, Playtex, Carefree, Stayfree and o.b., and where general targeting isn’t going to fly.

“They only want to target women [and], at this point, the network doesn’t have enough scale to be able to segment just female-skewing apps,” Grant said. “But once that gets solved, we’ll see more advertisers potentially leveraging those networks for targeting.”

 

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