By Ann Meany published February 13, 2014

The New iPhone Feature That Could Change Your Mobile Content Strategy

woman with phone, drinkImagine a member of your target audience standing in a crowded store aisle, feeling overwhelmed by all the choices. What if you could just reach out and give him or her something to help with the decision — a coupon, product information, discounts — right at that moment? Content marketers will soon have the ability to do this, and a whole lot more, now that iBeacon has arrived.

Included as part of Apple’s iOS 7, the iBeacon feature uses Bluetooth location-based technology to allow a sensor to communicate with a nearby device. Tiny transmitters can be placed throughout a building to determine visitors’ locations and send targeted alerts to their phones as they move about.

The potential uses for this technology are just beginning to be explored, but one thing is for certain — this will be a powerful new tool for content marketers, and we should be thinking now about how to craft a content strategy around ways to capitalize on its potential. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Shopping behavior: How consumers decide what to buy and when is going to drastically change. Winning at Google’s Zero Moment of Truth — that marketing moment a consumer spends online doing pre-shopping research — will require getting exactly the right content in the right place at the right time with even more precision. Shoppers will have the ability to collect real-time information, comparison pricing, discounts, and other helpful, highly tailored data as they walk through a store or browse near particular items. It will be imperative to produce well-timed, compelling content that is useful in those crucial moments before a choice is made.

woman with phone, purse

For content marketers, the task is clear: Think now about what kinds of content will be useful to a consumer in motion. There are many possibilities for leveraging this tool for effective content marketing, but here are a few ideas that go beyond coupons:

Customers shopping in a grocery store’s produce aisle could receive alerts about healthy recipes, or even a “meal map” within a store that delivers menus and the locations of all the ingredients. Shoppers in the cheese aisle might receive advice about good wines to pair with their selections. As customers walk through particular sections of the store, detailed nutritional information could be made available for each item.

In-depth information could enhance almost any in-store shopping experience. Home improvement stores could offer lists of products needed to complete particular projects, and their locations within the store. Clothing stores could supply alerts to let shoppers know where to find additional pieces to complete an outfit. Garden centers could keep customers engaged by helping them plan their gardens via access to climate maps and recommended tools.

man with smartphone

  • Micro location: Digital content will be more closely tied to the physical world. The technology is extremely precise and can pinpoint consumers’ locations as they move around in a space, quietly and conveniently customizing the alerts they receive. 

Major League Baseball is already experimenting with iBeacon at Citi Field in Queens, N.Y., where visitors are greeted with welcome notifications, first-time attendees are rewarded with hot dog coupons and, at an appropriate location, a video on the history of the venue is delivered.

A bar in London chose another way to utilize the technology: Everyone sitting inside the bar can access the most recent digital editions of two popular magazines using their device’s Newsstand app. From coupons and giveaways in stores to tours of museums to airports that provide real-time flight information, the possibilities are virtually endless.

It will be vital for marketers to identify and partner with bricks-and-mortar locations that attract those consumers whom they are trying to reach. For instance, tourist information bureaus could create tailored publications only available in certain airport lounges; television networks could promote their content via videos delivered only to certain coffee shops in particular cities; and pharmaceutical companies could deliver updates to doctors’ waiting rooms.

  • Increased engagement: Consumers will start to engage with content in a host of new ways. Rather than just providing information suitable for a web browser or even a mobile user, marketers will need to think about ways to provide content that will be of value to users as they live their lives. From businesses to city parks to our own backyards, we will be able to access helpful, real-time data like never before. The very environments in which we live will become interactive — houses will sense our approach, objects will notify us when they are moved, and buildings will guide us to the right location.

This will create the need for new categories of information. The marketing funnel will start to resemble a long, elegant canal that delivers content to consumers at frequent intervals throughout the day. There won’t be just a one-size-fits-all webinar or eBook, but rather, smaller bites of content will become the accepted way to benefit the reader at a particular place and time. Consuming content will be much more integrated into our daily experiences, rather than a segregated activity. 

As we embrace the new possibilities presented by iBeacon, it will be important to keep in mind what we already know: Quality content should still be the centerpiece of any content strategy. The level and variety of ways to engage with a reader are changing, but he or she will still be seeking one thing above all others: good information. 

For more insight on helpful tools to enhance your content strategy, check out CMI’s eGuide, How to Choose Content Marketing Technology.

Author: Ann Meany

Ann Meany is managing editor at Brandpoint, a content-based marketing solutions company that helps build exposure, credibility and awareness for brands. Ann has more than a decade of experience in digital media and marketing and leads a talented team of multi-channel content creators who produce engaging, relevant content for Brandpoint’s clients. You can follow Ann on Twitter @annkmeany or join the Brandpoint community @brandcontent and Facebook.

Other posts by Ann Meany

  • Chris Shirer

    Interesting development! A little insight from ‘back in the day’…

    Around 1998 – 2000,Bluetooth emerged. (It’s the method of wirelessly connecting devices a short distance from one another so they can communicate – like your iPad and its separate keyboard.) Everyone in the shopping center space was buzzing about how, if you had one of these Bluetooth transmitters inside your store, you could ‘ping’ customers walking past with your sale/special message as long as their phone was on and detectable. ‘Opting in’ was not really part of the scenario at the time.

    This article details almost exactly the same idea being tried again but I’m assuming the difference is that people will have a choice to opt-in to receive messaging because the notifications are likely something you can choose to enable or disable on the iPhone.

    When this Bluetooth-enabled messaging was offered, shoppers overwhelmingly said, “I really don’t care to have my shopping trip interrupted by messages. It’s my time to unwind, be with my friends, etc.” Imagine walking through store after store with your phone constantly dinging and pinging with likely the same offer you can see on a sign in the store window. The perceived value of the method was its interruptive nature (traditional advertising mode).

    The content marketing take on this opportunity is correct in that it’s probably better used to provide ‘added value’ information about a product or service to shoppers who WANT to get that information. But, while the method for delivering may be more contemporary, it will be interesting to see if people feel any differently about the interruptive experience.

    We always try to think about how someone feels about the messaging they’re receiving. Is it helpful, timely and, most importantly, desired. This method allows me to choose to be pinged or not pinged so that is good. The experiment continues…

    • rab1974

      We must have been tuned in to the same psychic radio station when writing those comments……

      • Chris Shirer

        Agreed! Though I must admit, seeing as how it’s more than a decade later, perhaps there is a new type of consumer (younger, more aggressively device-connected?) who may be completely fine with having an always-on, adjacent library (smartphone) provide extra value in their experiences.

        I have obvious difficulty imagining what it’s like to be 16 but can imagine that there is a different perception and value associated with what older consumers might find interruptive. To the always-connected younger user, it’s part of the multi-tasking course of their everyday lives.

    • pxlated

      As I commented above, it relies on specific apps to receive the beacon alerts. No app, no alerts. Have the app but don’t find the alerts useful, shut down the app.

      The national baseball league (NLB) is installing beacons in their stadiums – Since beacons have two unique ids (location/zone) and the distance any single one can transmit is controllable there’s many different ways these can be used/configured.

      An example…

      You park at the stadium, a nearby beacon interacts with your NBL app, reads your digital ticket – it now knows where you’re parked and where your sitting and can pull up a map directing you to your seat. Along the way, you don’t need to get your ticket out, you just walk through a gate (it’s already verified it’s you by your fingerprint on the iPhone), it then asks you if you need anything along the way (beer, peanuts, etc) and directs you to the closest refreshment stand and then on to your seat. During the game it can continue with other useful information. After the game, it gets you back to your car.

      There’s a million and one scenarios. The biggest thing though is that it’s opt-in, you need an app. Hence, your app and content strategy are going to determine whether you’re successful.

      • Chris Shirer

        Got it about the app connection and nice that it’s less battery-draining. I appreciate your insight!

        We’re still finding that, unless someone is delivering an app that is regularly used or of high value when used even once (the ballpark app could be a huge win for regular attendees), a lot of really cool apps end up in the endless mob of icons on a phone.
        I’m not disputing that there’s opportunity here — just offering that the choice to use a smartphone while doing something else means the content / experience delivery team needs to be thinking of user needs / wants first in order to maximize positive response to the experience.

        • pxlated

          Agree that there could be app overload – Better make that app and the content/offerings pretty dang compelling or people will just ditch the app. Of course, that’s the jist of this post – content strategy.
          Another way these will spread though is through other apps people already use. Every bar/restaurant will not create there own app, they’ll just sign up with Yelp, Foursquare (or whomever) and customize their own offers/content within that.

      • pxlated

        Here’s a link to an article about iBeacon and the baseball stadium installs…

  • Dave Link

    Is this really valuable information to consumers? Maybe my family is unique in that we plan out shopping lists before even going to the store, but any ping or messaging delivered to me while I’m walking past a kiosk would be seen as an annoyance and not a benefit – especially considering the message would likely be mistaken as a text or email that I’d actually WANT to see.

    I’m all for integrating content and bonus information where it makes sense, but this seems more like annoyance marketing than content marketing.

    • pxlated

      You’d need to download the grocery store’s app. You won’t receive beacon alerts without an app that interacts with the ids associated with that store/location. You can start/quit that app at will depending on how useful you find it.

    • marktennant

      I think what Dave is saying is true for a lot of consumers. But if people know this feature is available and can opt-in if they’d like it could be a benefit for that person; but the offer/coupon/content would really have to be a good value or benefit or else people are gone.
      I also wonder if this requires people to actually go into their iPhone and turn on a setting or make some kind of adjustment? Some may consider this ‘jumping through hoops’ and find it more of an annoyance than value. But I do like the idea for marketers but we have to find that middle ground where an idea like this can really work for the consumer and the business.

      • Dave Link

        I would see this type of functionality as being more effective from a content marketing perspective for something like a car dealership or even realty. When I’m shopping in a retail store I’ve likely done 90%+ of the research before even stepping through the doors, but with larger purchases the due diligence phase is MUCH longer. That’s the scenario in which I’d appreciate being pinged with info on customer reviews or peer reviewed info about a vehicle, or property tax/school district info for a home purchase.

  • rab1974

    How does this differ from the old bluetooth broadcasters? We experimented with these at tradeshows 4 years ago, but the problem seemed to be that people found them intrusive. I guess you can wrap them up in an app that sells people on the potential for ‘deals, information, entertainment’ etc. but then given the way that bluetooth always-on burns through battery life here’s another roadblock to success…….

    • pxlated

      It’s different in that it’s 4th gen “low energy” bluetooth so it doesn’t drain the battery. The beacons will last months on a small watch style battery. Secondly, a person would have to download an app specific to the store/location to receive the beacon alerts. Don’t want them, find them annoying, shut down the app.

  • Kameel Vohra

    Bluetooth Lowe Energy (iBeacon) can also be used for consumer tracking. The signatures are unique, allowing you to identify how many people, how frequently they visit, etc. even if they don’t actually use your app.

    Depending upon how Apple makes iBeacon available to developers, you may able to track, (but not message) customers if they use their mobile to access any services you have.

  • Ann Meany

    I think it will be important for retailers, etc., to make sure that what they push out to devices will be useful, very desirable, otherwise consumers won’t use the app. If consumers think it will be just a nuisance, they will avoid it. But if it enhances an experience, they will embrace it.