Event Recap: AdWeek – Proximity Marketing and Its Future

Continuing our coverage of New York Ad Week, today the Lab attended “Proximity Marketing, Wearables, and the Art of the Possible”, focusing on disruptive technologies and their impact on customer experience marketing. Led by Moderator Andrea Fishman from PwC, the panelists consisted of Fishman’s colleague David Clarke; Andrew Markowitz, Global Digital Strategy Director, GE; Mark Donovan, Chief Operating Officer, Thinaire; and Jordan Grossman, US Head of Sales at Waze.


Fishman started the discussion with the claim that “NFC and beacon-enabled proximity marketing is already happening—and not just in retail and consumer space, but globally in B2B and enterprises too”. Grossman concurred with her comment while also pointing out that “today’s marketing is about relevancy and proximity—it’s about offering people what they want in the right context to engage with them”.

The Value In Data

“NFC and RFID chips could be easily embedded and thus turn any daily item into a wearable,” Donovan noted, “and that means a lot of consumer data to be generated”. As Clarke pointed out, however, many companies are still “trying to figure out what to do with the data that proximity and wearable tech generated”. In order to realize the aforementioned contextualization in consumer marketing, we will need figure out how to leverage data into consumer insights.

Future of Marketing

Changing consumer behaviors led by new technologies indicates that “the future of marketing lies in where physical, digital and mobile spheres all converge into one total experience”, concluded Clarke. Markowitz also shared his vision that “the next marketing revolution will be internal, starting within the industry” and the only way to survive such disruption is to “trust and collaborate with your partners”.

Partner Spotlight: Roximity

Roximity is a leader in the emerging space of “hyperlocal retail”: using its state-of-the-art beacon technology, the company aims to understand consumer behavior and advertising effectiveness at shelf. In the past two weeks, Roximity has released a new generation of beacon hardware with greater range, battery life, and security, in addition to partnering with shopping app giant Ibotta, which will use Roximity tech to send proximity-enabled offers on nearby products. The platform has been featured in the New York TimesUSA Today and more, and has secured partnerships with everyone from Ford to the Brooklyn Nets.

How does “hyperlocal” retail work? Will people have to “check in” at every store aisle? 

Myriad hardware and software solutions are trying to maximize the relationship between brands on the shelf and the humans that buy them. “Beacon” technology—of which Apple’s’ iBeacon is the best known—uses Bluetooth to track the location and patterns of shoppers within the aisles. This level of tracking means that retailers can learn valuable data about their shoppers, and consumers can receive messages and offers based on where they are in a store.

How does Roximity’s technology work for advertisers?

For Alex Finkel, head of partnerships at Roximity, beacons close the attribution loop. ”Groupon might have an offer to your local restaurant, but your phone won’t know you actually went there. Beacons will be an integral tool for small businesses to have insight into their customers [that] they’ve never had before.” Roximity’s beacons link up with a consumer’s mobile device to send messages, deals, or calls to action at the shelf level. Retailers can understand the effects of their advertising campaign through Roximity’s platform as it tracks user activity within a store.

What advantages does Roximity hold for consumers?

Roximity sees hyperlocal technology as a return to a more intimate relationship between consumers and retailers. In big cities, Finkel says, “all the scale and density make it impossible to know your customers in the ideal version of the local small-town store we picture. That’s the relationship we strive for, but the urban economics make it difficult.” Beacons give retailers more information and more avenues to communicate with shoppers. It’s a futuristic version of the friendly handshake from decades past. For Roximity, beacons are “a step toward the personalization that used to exist.”

With beacons, consumers can make informed decisions at the shelf level. “If it’s contextual and meaningful,” says Finkel, “it’s not an advertisement for free pizza. It becomes a meaningful way to get lunch. That’s what I think of the broad vision and promise for beacons.”

Breaking News App Uses Proximity Tech Right

After launching its iOS app back in June, NBC’s Breaking News app is now bringing its proximity-based news alerts to the Android platform. It clearly asks for the user’s consent to use location information to enable this feature, and provides them with an easy opt-out as well. The news could be as local as a specific neighborhood or broadened to cover cities in the wake of major stories. The app stands out for offering a highly personalized news experience coupled with well-defined privacy measures.

Uber Opens Up “Corner Store” and API

Following its experimental campaign to deliver Lay’s-sponsored picnic baskets last week, Uber continues its dive into the on-demand economy by launching “Corner Store”, essentially a grocery delivery service embedded in the Uber app. The service is currently in beta and limited to Washington, DC area.

In addition, Uber also announced its decision to open up an API to let app developer integrate its service into their app. Brands including Starbucks, United Airline, Trip Advisor, and Open Table have reportedly signed up as partners. It is clear that Uber want to be more than just a platform for on-demand car service, and it will be interesting to see if such ambitious extensions will scale.

What Lay’s Is Teaming Up With Uber For

Sing all the praises you want about ecommerce, one thing it has yet to really figure out is how to provide interested consumer with samples in a timely manner. Or has it now? 

Potato chips brand Lay’s is teaming up with car-on-demand service Uber to launch a campaign in NYC. The campaign makes use of UberRush, Uber’s courier service, to deliver a free picnic basket filled with Lay’s potato chips for consumers participating in the brand’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest. If successful, this unlikely partnership could potentially pave a new path for digital sampling and proximity-based marketing.

HBC Stores To Deploy In-Store Beacon Technology

Beacon technology is getting another seal of approval from the retail industry. Department store chains Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay (both are owned by HBC) are rolling out in-store beacon marketing platforms, powered by Swirl, in over 130 retail storefronts across North America to deliver branded content and personalized offers to consumers’ smartphones while they shop. An ambitious application of beacon marketing in the retail industry, this marks the first time retail players test the technology. Pending customers’ feedback, the micro-location tech is ready to take the retail business by storm. Similar efforts would be expected in other retail stores soon, if offering a better, more integrated shopping experience is of their concern.

Proximity Push: iBeacons & Actionable Notifications

The Lab is bullish on iBeacons, Apple’s latest technology which enables proximity messaging (1-150 feet in range) via compatible apps. Think about recipes tailored to the grocery aisle you’re in or facilitating wait times at a restaurant without the need for those lovely restaurant pagers. Well, Apple’s recent announcement of actionable notifications brings the promise of iBeacons to another level. Now apps can push proximity-based notifications that let users take action like downloading that recipe or preordering appetizers right from within the home screen notification.

It’s a DR marketers dream, but don’t abuse the power! These notifications need to reduce friction for the user, not increase it. Users will be as quick to drop the app as they were to install it if they are bombarded by Like requests.