In Your Words Week Nine: Proximity Marketing

Overall, proximity marketing is a system that uses location-enabled technology in order to communicate with customers of a particular store or brand via their own personal devices. These devices are most commonly noted as smartphones, but also could include newer technologies with the same capabilities, such as GPS enabled fitness bands, iWatches, iPads, and more. As one could imagine, there are many benefits that coincide with the technologies of proximity marketing apps. As discussed in lecture, proximity apps have the ability to notify customers of certain deals and promotions going on within the store during their time shopping at the location.

One store that I am personally a frequent shopper at is the retailer, Urban Outfitters. For those who are not familiar, Urban Outfitters is a clothing brand targeted at millenials who wish to be “trendy”. Though I certainly am not “hipster” myself, the brand originally targeted “hipsters” with their “cool” clothing, and has grown to fit a larger target audience ever since.

Urban Outfitters also uses proximity marketing via their own personal app. While in the store, the application alerts customers of different deals that are going on at the time of the shopping trip, in addition to inviting customers into their loyalty program, if they are not already members. If a shopper is already a member, the app will go as far as to evaluate the points that the individual has, and invite him or her to exclusive events, based on his or her points. Points are received by making purchases and/or attending exclusive events. As one could conclude, proximity applications used in this way are great as they serve as an informational tool for customers. The shopper may not have known about the dress deal that was going on in the store, or that the he or she had enough points to attend a certain event. At a large store such as Urban Outfitters, there is no possible way that 15 employees could have alerted all 100+ customers of these deals, so the proximity application aided as a communication tool in reaching the masses. Thanks to proximity marketing technology, the customer is now made aware of these types of offerings in a very simple way.

Personally, I receive proximity marketing messages multiple times per day. Though I do receive messages from stores that I shop at such as Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Walgreens, and American Eagle Outfitters, I more commonly get notifications from Facebook.

As many may know, Facebook alerts its users if a friend is nearby him or her via proximity technology. Often times I will be walking around UF campus during the day and I will get an alert that one of my Facebook friends is nearby.

For example, last spring semester I was sitting in the library trying to complete a group project for a class, when I got a notification that one of my Facebook friends, a fellow member of my group for the project, was nearby. I was really struggling with the project and had actually planned to meet with that same exact group member later in the week.

However, since I received the notification while I was in the library, already working on the project, I thought that the group member might be doing the exact same thing as me, so I decided to reach out to her on Facebook Messenger. I told her about my Facebook proximity notification and it turns out that she was in fact doing the exact same thing as me, and was actually on the floor beneath me within the same library. Without Facebook proximity marketing, we would have never known this! Needless to say we were able to meet up a short ten minutes later and work on the project together so that we could get it done that day, versus later in the week. Though one may not think of proximity marketing as a convenience tool to help him or herself in his or her everyday life, it really is!

As more and more applications take advantage of proximity marketing applications, I believe that more and more wearables that support this technology are being released, and this is only the beginning. In saying this, wearables will influence proximity marketing strategies in a huge way.

I think that eventually different types of wearables will be able to promote different aspects of proximity. For example, I think that fitness oriented wearables will be able to tell its users if there is a path or trail to run or bike around. Though this information may be applicable to an individual who is into fitness, it might not be applicable to the business women who is walking across the street to get a cup of Starbucks Coffee on her 45 minute lunch break. This woman may be wearing her iWatch. Her iWatch may be able to inform her about different line lengths at all of the nearby Starbucks so that she can spend less time waiting in line, and more time enjoying her drink. Perhaps you have wearable technology that you depend on more than others, such as a health monitor. If an individual’s heartbeat becomes irregular that monitor may be able to alert the individual of all nearby hospitals so that he or she can be proactive and receive help as soon as possible before it is too late. The possibilities and the influence that wearables have on proximity marketing strategy is really endless, however, I think that customization in regards to the type of wearable that one is wearing could be the biggest influencer.

My client, Pete Smith’s Surf Shop, is a very small family owned and operated retail store with only two locations in southern New Jersey. In saying this, I do not think that they would use proximity marketing in the same way that other larger retailers, such as Urban Outfitters, do.

Often times the employee-to-customer ratio is one-on-one, meaning that each shopper has a very personalized experience while at Pete Smith’s. This means that if a sale, promotion, or event were going on within the store, the customer would be personally made aware of it from an employee due to the small size of the store. However, Pete Smith’s Surf Shop could use proximity marketing in a very different and unique way.

Pete Smith’s Surf Shop could employ proximity marketing in order to automate customer check-ins. Though Pete Smith’s does not need to actually inform its customers of anything urgent via social media, it could increase its social media presence by automating customer check-ins.

Once entering the store, Facebook could remind customers to “check-in” at Pete Smith’s. This essentially means that the customer would create a Facebook status that informs his or her friends about his or her current location. Like I mentioned before, Pete Smith’s is a very small family owned and operated business, so these check-ins could promote brand awareness and engage new customers. It is much easier for a customer to receive a notification to remind him or her to check-in at the surf shop, than it is for the employees to tell every single customer to do so.

Though I believe that verbal messages in regards to promotions and events are better suited for my client, I do not believe that verbally asking customers to check-in on Facebook is favorable. Not only will customers forget to check-in, but also they will become annoyed at such requests.

If Facebook automatically reminds the customers to perform this action, as well providing the link to do so at the touch of a button, it becomes a lot more convenient for all involved. Additionally, if Pete Smith’s really wanted to increase their Facebook check ins, they could create signs around the store reminding customers to engage in the activity. Once at the register, Pete Smith’s employees could ask the customer if her or she was able to check-in. If a customer did check-in and was able to prove it via showing his or her Facebook post, that customer may get a special prize, such as a promotional item or small discount.

Personally, the hair salon that I go to employs a similar technique and not only do my friends get to see where I get my hair done at, but it also drives sales for the salon, while I get a free sample bottle of hair product!

The specific outline of my proximity marketing approach for my client, Pete Smith’s Surf Shop would be very simple. I would first add a Facebook beacon to Pete Smith’s Surf Shop so that when customers entered the store, they would have the option to check-in on Facebook. I would then put a few low-key, but informative signs around the store reminding individuals to complete this check-in. I would be very careful in the creation and placement of these signs, because I would not want to overwhelm the customers. I would want “checking-in” to be a fun activity that customers wish to partake in, not that they feel bombarded to partake in (such as mall interviews or airline credit cards). I would then tell employees to politely inform customers at check out that if they were able to check into the store and can quickly pull up the Facebook post, that they will receive either a discount or promotional item or coupon. Though this proximity marketing approach would be very subtle in comparison to some larger retailers, I do think that it could help the business to expand and create a more reputable name, without particularly forcing or harassing customers to complete the check-in. Additionally, an individual can see how many “check-ins” a store has had on their specific Facebook page… as you can assume, the more check-ins, the better the image!

Overall, proximity marketing is a technology that is currently growing and is very helpful within many different categories, specifically retail, especially if planned and executed correctly. Though many think that proximity marketing infringes privacy rights, it is only enabled via bluetooth and GPS settings, so each individual has the option to participate in the technology and its offerings. It might seem a little scary at first, but I personally believe that proximity marketing is the way of the future in regards to personal advertising!  Proximity marketing has the ability to grow a company and create a reputable brand name, while also benefiting customers of a particular brand or store by conveniently making them aware of specific deals and events, so it is a technology that benefits two parties!

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