The online activities, trails, footprints and shadows which we leave in the connected world are the genesis of the hyper-personalization that all kinds of businesses are trying to capitalize on.
We are moving into an era of hyper-targeting. Marketers are constantly trying to super-personalize their messages and push the right deals to drive our buying decisions. Today’s technology has increasingly enabled a superior capture of the context in the online world.
Google, for example, has a very high degree of the context of services you use, irrespective of their products (e.g. Chrome, Android, Gmail or Google Search, etc.) leveraged. It signs you into its bouquet of services which also includes maps, docs, YouTube, etc. and therefore, the next time you search or use any of its services, it has a significantly better appreciation of what you are looking for. You may be searching through the Chrome browser for the best sushi restaurant in NYC, with the best route from your hotel to that restaurant and the cheapest airfare from LA to NYC, and Google will know exactly when you are planning to be in NYC and whether more likely for leisure or business travel. Similarly, Facebook pretty much knows your entire social life, interests, places you visit, friends, faith, games you like and your point of view on most things. Both contexts provide the ideal set-up to identify the types of products and services you will most probably consider to buy in the near future.
However, currently most of this contextual hyper-targeting and personalization is focused on online and e-businesses. Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, which are still a significant part of the eco-system in our daily lives, have largely not benefitted from these advancements. GPS satellites do not work well inside malls and stores, and hence location-based ad services are seldom received inside these malls and stores. The adoption of near-field communication, or NFC, has not been high and its limited range has not helped either. In addition, integration of these individual technologies require considerable effort and investment, which is often outside the scope for many small and medium businesses. It appears, all of this is likely to change soon.
Welcome to the world of BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy. BLE is based on existing Bluetooth technology which works with small amounts of energy over the usual range of Bluetooth. It supports simple data transferred by sensors and is ideal for transferring data between sensors and smart phones, smart watches, Google Glass, etc. Being low energy, it does not drain the batteries of smart phones or sensors, while at the same time, effectively overcoming the limitation of NFC’s 20 cm range issues.
BLE technology has huge implications for businesses. BLE sensors can be easily installed in shopping malls or within large stores to interact with smart phones. The technology can show advertisements, offer deals, cross-/up-sell relevant products, and can even predict user behavior if properly integrated with other apps and services on smart phones. Multiple BLE sensors with hardcoded location elements can even track user movements within an indoor environment and deliver services or promotions accordingly.
The recent big news on BLE is – Apple. With the launch of iOS7, Apple has introduced iBeacon services. Although Apple has not talked much about this at the launch, it is BLE services integrated into the iOS itself. Google has also recently introduced the BLE standards into Android 4.3. There are quite a number of OEMs working on the sensors (iBeacon devices) now. This will create significant momentum, especially with the large and profitable ecosystem that Apple runs along with its loyal and paying customers and the massive app developer community. BLE, along with Airdrop and Apple’s indoor mapping technologies, can create a whole new layer of context for brick-and-mortar businesses (and not to forget, a range of potential new apps). With proper encryptions and security provisions, it could even close the cycle with e-payment options for in-store purchases.
So the next time you are in a mall, pay close attention to your smart phone and you may discover a new facet…
Get ready for the era of hyper-personalization and super-targeted marketing.