Shopping Is Now an Immersive Mobile Media Experience

The next generation of in-store experiences put your phone at the center of your new “Around Me” universe.
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The next generation of in-store experiences put your phone at the center of your new “Around Me” universe.

Get ready for the age of context-aware shopping (and marketing). Apple announced iBeacon to its developer community at WWDC 2014 and the race is definitely on to create totally new in-store experiences. The next generation of in-store experiences could be centered around beacon technology, data from brands, and putting your phone at the center of your new “Around Me” universe. We’ll see Apple’s own retail locations blanketed with iBeacons for store displays, making reservations, getting sales assistance, and more. The idea is to model the product and stamp it with the “Apple Cool” factor early on.

And the early results are eye-popping. Research firm inMarket reports that beacons in retail stores caused a 19x increase in interactions with advertised products, and a 6.4x increase in the likelihood that a shopper kept an app that sent them a beacon message on their phones.

Offering users promotions or discounts on products they’re actually standing close to and providing accurate in-store mapping is interesting. What kind of promotions and engagement will marketers and advertisers dream up to leverage this new technology?

Here are a few applications already in use:

In London, Hamleys, Armani and Hackett are using iBeacons for personalized marketing. iBeacons are installed in Regent Street stores designed to pushing exclusive and personalized marketing messages to shoppers via a mobile phone app.

Coca-Cola is testing beacon’s hyper-targeting promise with an interactive attraction guide. Coke’s World of Coca-Cola attraction is using beacons this summer that work with a new mobile application for unlocking location-based content around specific areas.

Pharmacy chain Duane Reade is adding iBeacons in NYC locations to make pharmacy trips more convenient. Customers will be able to receive notifications on their lock screen as they approach a store or get discount offers based on what they have previously purchased.

GE is integrating iBeacons in new LED lighting fixtures rolling out in Walmart and other retailers. While Walmart hasn’t said exactly what features it plans to offer with iBeacons, GE’s lightning fixtures like standalone beacons will be capable of beaming coupons, promotions, product info, store maps and just about any experience developers can think up via the store’s mobile app.

The loyalty app Shopkick lets you tag items you like in a store – then alerts you when those items are on sale. The app will appear first in selected Macy’s, American Eagle Outfitters, Best Buy, Crate and Barrel, JCPenney, Macy’s, Old Navy, The Sports Authority and Target.

Content that can be pushed to consumers (who download the app) based on context, location and user profile offers up a massive number of possibilities. But consumers are also wary they will now be bombarded with ever more ads on their mobile device. If they’re overloaded and can’t seem to turn it off, they might ignore the whole thing altogether, much like they did with QR codes.

The responsibility to get it right is huge for all stakeholders – Apple, brands, and marketers. Marketers and brands will need to offer satisfying experiences to consumers that really add value and benefit.

The cool factor will wear off fairly quickly and what follows better be some really good data analytics and algorithms that serve up your preferences and likes in a compelling way. No one wants their phone scolding them because the shirt they selected is the ‘wrong’ color.

Agencies will want to storyboard the user experience very carefully. Some daily apps for consumer product goods need to focus on efficiency–people purchase shampoo and toothpaste all the time. Other apps can get more creative and dive deeper into the intriguing combination of location, user profile, technology, and good, solid branding. Leveraging the extended engagement-rich experience many users opt in for these days could reveal a creative bonanza.

Apple will want to get it right, because Google’s competing Nearby feature is nipping at its heels. Focused on the Android user, this could be a strong competitor in putting the mobile puzzle together. Add this to the connected home trend that Google’s home automation technology like Nest and Dropcam are designed to address, and our media-rich future suddenly gets interesting – and messy – quickly.

Beverly Macy is author, educator, and thought leader in social and digital business and a frequent contributor to Say Daily. She is also the author The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing and a host of Social Media Radio.