Demo: iBeacons as part of a (personalisation) platform

Writer: Floris Benniks

Now you can decide where, when and triggered by what events and profiles a (localised) message reaches your customer.

Last year, Apple introduced iBeacon technology. Beacons add ‘indoor location awareness’ to mobile apps. More and more experiments and concepts are built around this technology, in retail as well as museums and at events. Mirabeau built its first iBeacon prototype last year, a prototype that features iBeacons as part of a marketing automation platform.

Ibeacon technologie | Mirabeau

Data is key within this development. More and more users are shown content based on their personal profile, instead of general statistics such as number of visitors and visit duration. We developed our online platform for different target audiences that are offered content based on data. Data tells a consumer story: where they have been, what they have done, and what their preferences are. Data should make a user’s life easier whilst offering companies a more effective tool to reach them.

A quick note on iBeacons

iBeacons are small Bluetooth transmitters that enable apps to use location data with high precision – we call this ‘location awareness’. iBeacons use BLE-technology: also known as Bluetooth low energy, or Bluetooth smart. BLE does not drain smartphone or beacon batteries (a beacon works for two years on a single cell battery) and are cost-effective and small. At the moment, three beacons retail for $99, and this price will likely fall further in the near future. iBeacons are a closed protocol system that work with both iOS and Android.

Ibeacons personalisatie platform | Mirabeau

iBeacons as part of a platform

Since the start of our experiment, we’ve developed many prototypes. This type of location context is interesting, but also raises plenty of questions. Which application is most effective; and when will it cause annoyance? What data – besides the location – do we use to make the message as relevant as possible? All these questions prove that we need to keep experimenting, testing en optimising. An e-commerce or service department should be able to explore freely what works, fine-tune the metaphorical dials and benefit from the ease of a content management system. This means hard-coding iBeacon logic within apps is not always a useful solution. A marketer should be able to decide where, when and what events and profiles trigger a (localised) message for the user.

Marketing automation: testing triggers and flows

Content that is triggered by iBeacons can obviously be sent from a CMS, such as push communication like app notifications. We feel it is more effective to include iBeacons within a platform that uses personalisation, preferably personalisation based on situation (location, weather, etc.), history and a personal profile. For this demo, we used the Salesforce ExactTarget platform – of course, there are other platforms out there offering marketing automation.

Real-time customer journey configuration

Starting from a customer journey has become standard practice in many organisations: focusing on the end user and their journey is used in developing strategies and concepts. A marketing automation system ensures a marketer can decide on messages within the journey based on triggers. The simplicity of this process makes it an attractive proposition to work and experiment with. Below you will find the configuration screen from our demo: with simple dragging and dropping, it is easy to create a customer journey complete with triggers and conditions, as well as deciding on what data to use.

Location spam

Location notifications are at risk of becoming this decade’s spam – at least, that is what end users tell us about their experiences with iBeacons: “Yes, but I don’t want to receive a message in every single shop I go to.” Organisations should focus more on providing a service instead of a hard sell. Ensuring the information is relevant and the frequency of messages is low are essential conditions for a successful outcome of ‘location-aware’ communication. For example, if a customer ‘likes’ a bikini on your Facebook page, she should receive a message guiding her to the 2nd floor for swimwear, instead of an offer on shoes or an update on the new collection of brand X.

Bikini or umbrella?

Many store branches show weather to be one of the most important factors in sales. Travel departments are busier on rainy days and supermarkets don’t promote stews on a hot and humid day. So, in this demo, we use real-time weather data as triggers. This additional data source integrates well with the system and ensures marketers can plan ahead on some flows to make the offers more attractive – based on weather in this case. A system like this will decide in real-time whether it will send you directions to umbrellas or bikinis.

Lather, rinse, repeat

There has not been extensive research into applying location context to marketing and service communication. We suggest not hard-coding iBeacon logic within apps, but using a platform that’s easy to configure, test and optimise. A continuous cycle of experimenting, analysing and improving helps us surprise customers with relevant communication – the essential basis to reap the benefits of using location data in the long term.