Beyond The Beacon Proximity-Marketing Hype, Fuel Contextual Marketing With Location Data

When it comes to location-based marketing and proximity-marketing, more often than not, marketers seem fascinated by the beacon technology.

With 82% of shoppers making their actual purchasing decision in-aisle, it’s no wonder that vendors are betting on beacons and indoor positioning systems to help marketers interact with consumers in real time.

A year ago, Forrester warned of the hype around beacons. Despite huge interest and numerous successful pilots, we have yet to see very many successful commercial rollouts. This is not so much about the technology (even though battery life and operational deployments raise technology issue), but primarily because reach is limited today and because few marketers can deliver smart contextual messages at scale. They must also define engagement scenarios and automated rules to deliver relevant messages to individual customers.

Location data alone is dumb. Sending someone a coupon to redeem in a nearby store just because they’re passing by isn’t enough. For ads and messages to be relevant, firms must combine location data with insights like past behaviors, preferences, needs, and situations. It is also likely they will have to combine multiple technologies to reduce the complexity of in-store operational deployments and boost the accuracy of location data.

There are many more opportunities than just pushing marketing messages in real-time. Using location data is more important than just capturing the attention of nearby smartphone owners — it’s about powering contextual marketing.

In particular, marketers should fuel contextual marketing with location data to:

  • Increase brand preference by delivering personalized experiences
  • Improve the customer experience on location
  • Advertise more efficiently
  • Unlock audience targeting and offer intention data
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How mobile will transform business in 2016

With my peers Julie A. Ask, Jeffrey S. Hammond, Michael Facemire, Tyler Shields, Christian Kane, Jennifer Wiseand many other analysts, we put together our thoughts in a new 2016 Mobile predictions report on what to expect in the mobile space next year across industries and roles.

We believe 2016 will be the most consequential year for companies on the path to customer obsession, and that includes adapting empowered customers who expect to get anything they want immediately, in context on their mobile devices.

What role does mobile play in customer obsession, and how can businesses leapfrog their competition to deliver superior customer experiences? Here are three ways Forrester predicts mobile will change the ways business leaders operate in 2016.

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2016 Mobile Predictions: Alternative Ecosystems Beyond Android and iOS Will Emerge

Customer-obsessed businesses will take personalization to the next level in 2016. By the end of 2016, Forrester forecasts that 4.8 billion individuals globally will use a mobile phone, and as that number continues to grow, customer-obsessed business leaders have vast opportunities to deliver great customer experiences via mobile.


Mobile moments -- a time when consumers picks up their mobile devices to get what they want in that moment of need --  are the next battleground where to win, serve, and retain customers. Many executives believe they should manufacture and own these moments through their native branded iOS or Android apps. While this is, of course, one way to serve their best and most loyal customers Forrester research found that consumers use fewer apps and concentrate the vast majority of their time in just few apps.

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Consumers Will Manage All Brand Interactions Via Their Smartphones

I spent the last couple of months interviewing marketers and vendors to understand how brands integrate push notifications and in-app messages in their marketing strategy.

Even though my research was primarily focused on mobile apps, I was convinced that there was much more at play. In fact, brands that can harness the power of contextual data to consistently deliver customer value will deliver compelling brand experiences that will build brand preference and, ultimately, loyalty.

Even with the emergence of connected objects that send notifications, smartphones will remain the primary interface in which consumers will personalize their digital experiences. Smartphones will become the hub for most interactions between a brand and its customers. In the next five to 10 years, consumers will use smartphone apps to define and control the communication environment in which brands can interact with them. In particular, we see that:

  • Mobile will become the primary touchpoint for brands to engage consumers. Mobile traffic has already overtaken desktop traffic in five major countries: Nigeria, India, South Africa, Indonesia, and Poland.No doubt this will happen across the globe in the next couple of years. B2C marketers will become smarter in engaging customers via mobile, maturing their approach and moving progressively to the holy grail of one-to-one marketing.
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Expect Faster Adoption Of Apple Pay In The UK

At the beginning of the year, Forrester made the call that the future of mobile wallets lies beyond payments. By adding marketing value beyond payments — such as integration of loyalty rewards, coupons and many other services, wallets will become marketing platforms complementing merchants' own integrated apps.

Consumers want a better shopping experience, not better payment systems. By adding support for rewards programs (from the likes of Walgreens or Kohl’s) and store-issued credit and debit cards, Apple will make this fall a first step in building a more integrated mobile wallet. The rebranding of Passbook to Wallet represents an explicit push by Apple toward a more comprehensive, consumer-friendly solution.

Less than a year after launching in the US, consumer adoption of Apple Pay is modest but encouraging, all the more Apple Pay has quickly become a trusted solution.

I believe adoption in the UK will be faster than in the US for a number of different reasons:

  • The NFC and contactless ecosystem is much more mature in the UK.
  • There is no consortium of retailers like MCX with ConcurC led by Walmart willing to launch a competing offering. That said, Zapp is likely to be main competing service when it launches in October with the backing of Sainsbury’s, Asda, House of Fraser, Thomas Cook, HSBC, First Direct, Nationwide, and Santander. Barclays, the one major UK bank not backing Apple Pay, just announced today they will also support Zapp at launch.
  • The inclusion of Transport for London as a partner is a way to raise awareness and accelerate daily usage.
  • Apple will benefit from a larger installed base of compatible devices (iPhone 6 and 6+) and from the awareness created by the media buzz from the US launch.
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Run On Smartphones Before You Walk On Smartwatches

Apple will sell more than ten million Apple Watches and dominate the smartwatch category in 2015. Despite the hype, this will only represent 1% of the 2 billion smartphones’ installed base. Should B2C marketers even care? Yes, because the Apple Watch is a good way to learn how to deliver extremely contextual experiences to a niche of early adopters and influencers. Because Apple Watch will boost sales for the entire wearable market, it is also a good opportunity to anticipate and innovate on connected objects.

However, smartwatches are a double-edged sword for marketers. On one hand, they offer unique opportunities to develop brand proximity and hyper-contextualized alerts for consumers in their micromoments. On the other hand, they risk damaging the brand by oversaturating customers with irrelevant messages and raising privacy concerns.

Most branded apps I had the opportunity to test did not deliver value. I even ended up deleting some iPhone apps that did not offer relevant messages. I think marketers should not even consider Apple Watch if they haven’t implemented a mobile messaging and push notification strategy. To differentiate among other apps, you must mature your push notification approach to deliver truly personalized experiences in the context of your overall customer relationship management.

For marketers having a more advanced mobile strategy, now is a good time to start working with app developers or their agencies to plan for native Apple Watch Apps by taking advantage of all the sensors on the device, and to build their own “complications”, mashups of data that would be pertinent for a given user at a given time.

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Join Our 2015 Global Mobile Executive Survey

For the past few years, Forrester has fielded a Global Mobile Executive Survey to understand and benchmark mobile initiatives. This year, my colleagues Julie Ask, Jennifer Wise and I are updating the survey again to help business executives and marketers benchmark and mature their mobile strategy and services.

Planning and organizing for the use of mobile technologies is a complex task. Integrating mobile as part of a broader corporate strategy is even more complex. However, some players are leading the way and working on infrastructure, staffing, and competencies that are hard to see unless you look closely. If you want to understand the role that mobile is playing in various organizations, what their objectives are, how they measure the success of their mobile initiatives, and a lot more, you just have to share with us your own perspective and we will aggregate the answers.

For your efforts, we will share a free copy of the survey results.

If you’re in charge of your company's mobile consumer initiative or if you’re familiar with it, then please take this survey.

Click HERE to start the questionnaire.

If you’re not familiar with your company’s mobile consumer approach, please forward this survey to the relevant colleagues who are in charge of defining or implementing your mobile consumer approach.

  • The survey takes less than 20 minutes to complete.
  • The survey will be live until September 7, 2015.
  • Responses will be kept strictly confidential and published only in an aggregated and anonymous manner.
  • Needless to say, we will filter responses and exclude irrelevant answers as well as answers from vendors, agencies, or consulting organizations.

Build Trust Or Die

Trust is the most critical component to develop and maintain a healthy brand. Customers are more likely to trust experts, friends and relatives than marketing campaigns. That’s why it matters to deliver the experience you promise and to build a trusted community around your brand.

As marketers will need to use more personal data to power mobile and contextual experiences, we expect consumer distrust for brands to increase

No matter how quickly wearables and connected objects emerge in the next 10 years, mobility has already introduced a paradigm shift: the ability to collect and use data about individuals in the physical world. Mobility will change the nature of the data marketers can use and act upon. Data collected via mobile will be much more sensitive, more personal and more contextual. Via sensors on wearables or smartphones, marketers will access data on our bodies and our whereabouts in real-time. This represents a huge opportunity for marketers to power better marketing across all channels not just mobile. Mobile and connected objects will not only change the nature of the data marketers can access, it will also bring privacy concerns to the physical space and it risks breaking anonymization.

Together with my colleague Fatemeh Khatibloo, co-author of the report, we digged into our Technographics data to better understand consumers’ perceptions on mobile privacy. We also conducted many interviews to discuss with marketers, vendors, and regulators how they approach mobile data and privacy. Here below are a couple of facts we learnt:

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Mobile-First Will Not Be Enough

The global mobile revolution is still in its early stages! Forrester forecasts that there will be nearly 3.5 billion individual smartphone users among more than 5 billion individual mobile subscribers by 2019. Mobile will clearly be the new battleground where you must win, serve, and retain your customers globally. Mobile is no longer simply a digital channel; it is an opportunity to transform customer experiences and to invent new businesses. It will be the hub of new connected experiences in mature economies but the ultimate “converged” medium in emerging ones.

To move away from simply shrinking and squeezing their desktop PC websites and ads onto mobile, many B2C marketers have embraced the notion of “mobile-first”. They are starting to design websites and marketing campaigns with mobile in mind instead of simply retrofitting their approach to mobile. More often than not, mobile-first still implies that you consider mobile as channel. While you must design with mobile in mind and adapt your content to smaller screens, this approach won’t be enough to fully address the upcoming global mobile revolution.

Marketers must now leverage mobile to transform their customer experience and to act as a catalyst for business disruption.

■  B2C Marketers must transform the overall experience to win in customers’ mobile moments . . .Marketers must stop thinking about mobile as a goal or a strategy and start thinking about how it can help them achieve their overall marketing and business objectives. Only 14% of the companies we surveyed have started down this path, and only 4% of them have allocated the resources, budget, and organization needed to undergo their own mobile mind shift. Those that are investing in the mobile mind shift are pulling ahead.

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Key Takeaways From Mobile World Congress 2015

This year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona brought together 90,000 attendees, including 4,500 CEOs and a growing number of CMOs and marketing leaders. Let’s face it: MWC, unlike SXSW, Cannes Lions, ad:tech, or dmexco, is not a leading marketing and advertising event. However, because mobile is a catalyst for business transformation, MWC is progressively morphing from a business-to-business (B2B) telecom trade show to an event that affects all industries, from automotive to payments. 

I think MWC 2015 was still too technology focused. Too many announcements and headlines at MWC 2015 focused on the launch of new hardware devices, from the new Galaxy S6 to virtual reality headsets; centered on telecom technologies, such as 5G; or focused on the technology OS wars, which will be irrelevant for marketers this year. However, marketers could get a glimpse of what it means to deliver contextual experiences. By cutting through the hype and taking a look at innovative, specialized mobile marketing and ad tech companies at MWC, marketers can get a better sense of how they can act on data to deliver more-contextualized and more-personalized experiences across new connected devices and objects.

My colleague Dan Bieler put together his observations of what MWC means for CIOs in his blog post. Together, we will host a free Webinar tomorrow (Thursday, March 12) at 4pm CET / 3pm GMT / 10am ET, you can still register here.

For clients willing to know more about this, you can access my new report.