Bob Garfield

3 simple ways marketers could screw up beacons

Beacon technology is hot right now. But are you in danger of blowing it? Here are major pitfalls to avoid.

Beacon technology needs to be led by retailers, not brands

For beacons to be successful and truly popular with shoppers, they must blend well with the shopping experience. If friendly alerts and deals are not provided to consumers in a natural way, shoppers will revolt. This creates a danger for retailers, as they will be the ones taking the hit for bad beacon experiences, not specific brands. For beacons to really take off retailers must take the lead. They cannot leave it to digital-out-of-home marketers to create the experience because different brands (especially competitors) don't communicate with each other. Retailers must be the ones that strategize the overall experience. They must work with brand marketers to make them happy and protect their shoppers in the process.

Marketers cannot throw beacons every three feet and annoy shoppers

This is perhaps the most popular (and important) danger for marketers looking to implement beacons. How much is too much? Beacon alerts are not like tweets; you can't throw out as many as you want without repercussions. It's unclear right now how many beacon alerts a consumer can receive before it starts to get annoying and damage the shopping experience. If several brands start sending out several beacon alerts to consumers all at once, everyone will lose.

Beacon strategies can't be created around what seems "cool"

There's no denying that for mobile marketers, beacons are cool. The possibility to hit up consumers at the right moment in stores is incredibly appealing. Because of this, it's tempting for marketers to work backwards from what strategy will be the sexiest, rather than which one will actually be helpful. If your brand competitors start employing beacons, a race will begin among marketers for which brands can come out with the coolest and slickest way to reach shoppers. This should be avoided because consumers don't care about your internal feather fluffing; they care about what offers will actually be helpful.

At the iMedia Commerce Summit, this was a big topic of discussion. Ashley Bast from AcuityAds spoke with John Stichweh, director of digital and social shopper marketing at ConAgra Foods, about how new technology, like beacons, must be carefully rolled out to avoid major consumer backlash.

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Article written by senior media producer David Zaleski.

Video edited by associate media producer Brian Waters.

"Portrait of a young man with his finger in his nose" image via Shutterstock.