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Somo exec: IBeacon messaging friction reduced, presenting opportunities and challenges

NEW YORK — A Somo executive at the fifth annual Mobile Marketing Day conference said that Apple’s iOS 7 update is good news for marketers just now beginning to leverage iBeacons, but could squash future efforts at owning the experience.

During the “Mobile versus Mobility: A New Era of Connectivity” session, the executive spoke about the shift in marketing from purely on smartphones and tablets to more cross-channel connected device experiences. One of the more interesting topics discussed during the session is the new update to Apple’s operating system in iOS 7.1 that rolled out this week that makes it possible for consumers to receive iBeacon messages without having a brand’s mobile application open.

“The key piece of that release that you may not have realized is that in the first incarnation of the operating system, you had to have the app open for the beacon to work,” said Michael Becker, market development and strategic advisor for North America at Somo, San Francisco.

“In the new release that came out this week, if the app has been installed on your phone and you’ve opted in for it, you no longer need to have the app open for the marketer to be able to send you an alert,” he said. “That just removed friction and barrier from the process.

“Now I can have my Walgreens, Walmart app, have it closed and when I walk into [the store], I’ll still get the alerts from the retailer.”

Personalized messages
Although Apple’s new update eliminates the number of steps that consumers need to take to receive an in-app message triggered by a beacon, there is also a potential for the technology to become overwhelming for consumers.

An attendee pointed out during the session that if users do not need to open an app to receive beacon alerts, consumers with multiple retail apps downloaded could be pinged with multiple offers simultaneously that may not be relevant.

As more retailers adopt Bluetooth low energy, marketers will need to develop standards to get around these issues.

For example, Mr. Becker said that he could imagine that a company may begin aggregating beacon-based offers from retailers into one app so that consumers are not overwhelmed by a large number of offers.

Connected devices
According to research presented during the session, the time consumers spend with television has decreased from 45 percent to 38 percent between 2009 and 2014.

However, the time spent with mobile has grown from 4 percent to 20 percent during the same time period. The combination of mobile and online now represents more time spent than TV.

Marketing spend based on this behavior is not up to par, with mobile generating approximately 3 percent of marketing spend.

Now that mobile devices have proliferated to the majority of consumers, the explosion of new connected products in healthcare, cars, wearables and automobiles is the next frontier for brands including Ford, Procter & Gamble and Kenneth Cole.

Cisco predicts for there to be 50 billion connected devices in the market by 2020.

For example, Ford has opened up 30 to 50 data points in its new Focus car so that any developer can build apps onto a car. This essentially cuts down the need for an engineer and gives the consumer more control of the vehicle.

Additionally, Kenneth Cole launched what is claimed to be the first branded app on Google Glass. The app is geared towards men and challenges consumers to interact with 21 deeds throughout the day for a chance to win products.

According to Mr. Becker, one of the biggest takeaways for marketers with the shift from mobile marketing to mobility is that consumer expectations are significantly greater now than before smartphones and tablets.

Take Amazon, for example.

Amazon’s Kindle HDX tablet includes a “mayday” button to access real-time, human customer service.

Additionally, brands are now competing with each other across verticals.

“If you’re a big box retailer, let’s say a Best Buy, you’re competition is not necessarily just Target anymore, it’s also Starbucks because your competition is not just now about what you sell, it’s also about how you service your customers,” Mr. Becker said.

“It’s about the expectations that your customers have when it comes to being serviced,” he said. “They expect really well thought out experiences.

“Every interaction a consumer has in mobile, whether it’s in your market sector or not raises the bar for you and everyone else.”

Final Take
Michael Becker is market development and strategic advisor for North America at Somo, San Francisco