No matter how advanced man and his technologies become, the need to sell and consequently market the things that are sold cannot be done away with. It is just that the methods of marketing evolve with the times and the recent trend in this regard has been proximity marketing.
So the natural question you will have at this point is “What is proximity marketing?”. In simple terms, it is the marketing done based on how close you are to a particular place or thing where the product or service that is being marketed is relevant. There are various ways of determining whether someone is in the correct place to receive this sort of marketing.
The next question that would arise is why is something like this necessary? We live in the digital age where there is an overload of information. Everyone is constantly being bombarded by so much information that most marketing strategies that were effective a few years ago have become obsolete now. To keep pace with the times it becomes necessary that the marketing be as relevant and as focused as possible. That is the driving force behind proximity marketing.
No one is going to willingly let you know what their current interest is, but a good indicator of that is their physical location. So, if somebody is hanging out at the organic section in a supermarket and he or she receives promotional material regarding some sort of organic product, they are more likely to buy it than some random audience garnered by putting up a hoarding of the same product at a busy intersection.
So, the next challenge that arises is how to determine the key element here -‘Proximity’ to the product or service being marketed. That is where modern technology comes in. Pretty much everyone carries a smartphone or mobile device with them these days and it is this medium that acts as the primary source of determining proximity.
These phones come equipped with Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC, BLE Bluetooth low energy and a mobile network such as GSM or WCDMA and it is using one of these that the proximity can be determined. We will now take a look at each one of them individually so that a clear picture can be drawn as to how exactly each of the different methods function.
Wifi proximity marketing:
Wifi stands for wireless fidelity and it is the primary way by which people connect to public networks, hotspots or routers to access the internet. As wifi is basically a type of electromagnetic wave, its strength can give a clear indication of how far a subject is.
If the subject is close enough then the relevant promotional material can be sent to them. Wifi is perhaps the most widespread means of connecting to the internet around the world and as such this sort of proximity marketing is relevant all around the world. So how exactly does this system work? If you leave your wifi switched on, it will periodically keep searching for a wifi network by transmitting its own signal.
This signal can be intercepted and based upon its strength and direction, the proximity of that device can be found out. Based on this the relevance of a particular marketing material can be determined. This method is very similar to the RFID tracking chips that can be found in dog collars which can be used to track down the animal if it goes missing.
There are two ways through which proximity marketing can be carried out over wifi
1.) Using a public access point: This method employs the access points already present in public places such as a mall, airports, railway stations and so on. Say for example your device is detected in an airport. The things you might need are a car rental service, a travel agency, hotels, restaurants and so on. Accordingly, the right kind of material can be sent to you using the same access point. This is the cheaper alternative but is also less efficient. The signal strengths in such cases are weak and sending and receiving information can take a lot of time.
2.) Using dedicated hardware:
To overcome the shortcomings of the previous method, dedicated equipment such as antenna and wifi modules are used. These devices are only focused on proximity marketing. This is slightly more expensive but a lot more effective and fast. They work in the same way as the previous method. The antennae intercept the scanning signals emitted by the mobile phone and using that the promotional media is transmitted to the said mobile device.
Bluetooth proximity marketing:
When the range is a lot lower and a more specific audience has to be reached then this type of proximity marketing is used. Since there are no public access points that use bluetooth, this one is exclusively made up of dedicated equipment. The biggest problem associated with this type of marketing is that most people keep their bluetooth switched off most of the time. There is new technology available to remedy this problem. The solution is BLE bluetooth low energy. Even if your bluetooth is turned off you can still get notifications.
In such cases, the additional help of a medium is required whereby the user can be informed that they need to switch on the bluetooth and ensure that it can be discovered. Also, the user has to give access to their device one time to get notifications for as long as you like.
The range is also very less and it can be used to advertise just about anything plus specific products in a single aisle or shelf. Getting a sizeable audience is the challenge here but the rate of conversion is very high due to the focused nature of the marketing. The trouble is getting the customers to trust you enough to switch on their bluetooth and allow you to connect and transmit to their devices and for this old school marketing techniques have to be implemented.
Another challenge is the variance in the types of devices people use. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and loaded with different types of operating systems.The bluetooth system has to optimise the content to suit the device it is transmitting to. This method ensures that there is no distortion in the content due to differences in resolutions and pixel densities among different devices.
This is perhaps the oldest form of proximity marketing that is still in use. It is more specifically known as GSM based mobile proximity marketing. GSM uses mobile towers to transmit its signals between the cell phone and the carrier. Using the information as to which tower a mobile phone is connected presently, its location can be determined and marketing material can be sent accordingly.
Traditionally this was in the form of SMS or short messaging service format. With the implementation of EDGE, multimedia contents such as small images or audio files could also be transmitted. This has expanded the ways of reaching out to the customers. The biggest advantage of this system is that a large number of people can be reached without having to employ any special equipment.
This is also a tried and tested method as in the past and even now in many countries, it is used to broadcast important messages from the government to the people in a certain locale. This can include disaster warnings, tourism related information or messages geared towards general awareness. The disadvantages of this method mainly concern its widespread nature. Since the preciseness of the location is more general, a large number of people will get the promotional material for many of whom it might be irrelevant.
Another issue is the relatively low size of a file that can be transmitted over this medium. That limits the creativity and amount of information that can be transmitted. The trick here is to find the right balance between catchiness and relevance within a very limited window. The biggest benefactors of this method are those targeting a large variance in their intended demographic.
NFC proximity marketing:
NFC stands for Near Field Communication. This is perhaps the best method of proximity marketing. This method uses smart posters and smart pamphlets that are embedded with a RFID chip. This allows users to scan the posters with their NFC enabled smartphones and be directed to the product’s page. This is the only method that has any scope of gaining widespread acceptance as it places the choice of receiving any promotional material purely in the hands of the users.
There is no fear of losing data and unauthorized access to their devices. This is also very futuristic and requires some very creative thinking. The smart posters need to be catchy enough to incite the viewer into taking out their devices and scanning the poster.
This has been the most recent and trending form of proximity marketing and has been used by renowned brands such as Red Bull. Everything from offers to new product launches can be marketed this way and this can be used in fields as varied as a drug store to a toy store. This also seems to the future of purchasing tickets to a movie or a theme park. All the visitor has to do is scan the poster, choose the offer or event they want and make a payment. All in a safe and secure manner.
Challenges associated with proximity marketing
– Cost: Since it is a totally different way of doing things, people have to be trained differently. Significant investments need to be made in procuring the required permissions and purchasing the required equipment. The cost of running and maintaining such a system is also pretty high.
Add to that the need to implement this technique across various platforms of hardware and software and it all adds up to a significant amount. This will drive up the cost of the product being marketed and that can give the edge to a competitor who isn’t using a proximity marketing system and as such is not spending so much.
– Acceptance: The general public is very paranoid today when it comes to aspects of data sharing and broadcasting. This means that any requirement of access to their mobile phones and tablets is not readily accepted and implemented. So, no matter how attractive a marketing material is, people will always find it a bit difficult to accept the fact that first, they need to allow access to their devices.
It also requires a lot more effort than would be expended in viewing a traditional marketing material like a hoarding or an advertisement in a magazine. All this means that the pot has to be sweetened with better offers and deals to the point that they become irresistible, all of which will drive up the expense in marketing the product.
-Technology still in its infancy: This is a particularly new avenue and as such most of the technology in use here is untested. This means that it is difficult for brands to commit to a particular system of proximity marketing. This means that until unless a widely accepted system is launched, proximity marketing will remain mostly in the experimental stage. Everyone is still testing the waters and that means that it is not an attractive option for developers at the moment. This is perhaps the biggest obstacle facing this system.
As the old ways of marketing a product are becoming obsolete, new and more exciting ways are being searched for. Whether proximity marketing is the answer can only be answered with time. One thing is, however, clear. Proximity marketing appears to be the brightest idea on the horizon. Quite a few big brands have already implemented this method and much more are showing interest.
Many researchers are working to improve this system and make it more optimized and fluid. The future is definitely bright and if you are a brand owner, in advertising and marketing, or just a regular person living in the digital age, proximity marketing is something you need to keep a close eye on.
In the future, proximity marketing could mean the difference between the success of a brand and its very survival. In today’s cut throat world of high competition, every weapon needs to be utilized and as far as proximity marketing is concerned, the question is not ‘Whether to take a plunge?’ but ‘When to take a plunge?
Trusted company that offers proximity marketing services
There are companies out there that sell proximity marketing services with really sophisticated software that transmit promotional messages through a beacon. I’ve only had experience with one company and their services and reputation are impeccable. The company is NETcinity. Want to learn more about them go check it out here http://bluetoothmarketinghq.com. Their beacon technology works with all Android, Apple IOS devices, all mobile devices like the Ipad.