Small and midsized businesses (SMBs) don't have to wait for location-based mobile marketing to trickle down from big retailers.
Many business owners would love to boost their sales and reward loyal customers by delivering personalized promotions or money-saving coupons directly to their mobile phones as they peruse the aisles. But where to start? More importantly, can they do it without breaking the bank?
This month, Motorola Solutions—not to be confused by the Motorola Mobility unit acquired by Google—launched a new platform that helps businesses of all sizes to engage with savvy, smartphone-toting consumers that venture into their shops. Called the MPact Platform for Mobile Marketing, the hardware, software and cloud-based services suite is designed to help small businesses piece together compelling, and potentially profitable, in-person retail experiences.
MPact solves the problem of implementing costly location-based services, according to Motorola Solutions' Girish Rishi, senior vice president of the company's enterprise solutions division. While ubiquitous, "Wi-Fi is the most expensive location-based service today," said Rishi.
Security and network management concerns aside, Wi-Fi signals tend to blanket a wide area, making it tough to pinpoint customers. A store may know that customers are nearby, but not that they're hovering over a display case with high-value products, for instance.
Mobile Marketing Meets Bluetooth
Businesses that use Wi-Fi location-based services can deliver marketing messages, albeit not with the exactitude and level of personalization often required to seal the deal, argues Rishi. "You won't see a lot of location-based services on Wi-Fi," he told Small Business Computing. But Bluetooth is another story.
Motorola goes a step further, said Rishi. "We added Smart beacons, which reduces the cost significantly." The Bluetooth-enabled devices complete the cycle, allowing businesses to accurately detect a customer within 4 feet of a beacon. The Smart beacons let MPact offer all three levels of location services, from presence (inside the store) to zone (by the produce section) to position (in front of the lettuce).
Including the Bluetooth Smart beacons, which are compatible with Apple's iBeacon low-power location services technology for iOS, can have game-changing results for businesses, said Rishi.
Using a restaurant as an example, Rishi said "you can go to a digitized menu." The act of just placing a smartphone on a table can trigger a pop-up menu with the day's specials and promotions, whetting diners' appetites and speeding up the ordering process.
Other marketing opportunities abound, he said. "When a customer stands in front of the cereal, a business could offer a cross-reference to milk," said Rishi. MPact makes it possible for brick-and-mortar stores to deliver personalized and sophisticated in-person marketing campaigns that rival, perhaps surpass, email marketing campaigns, he asserted.
Shoppers won't even notice the Bluetooth Smart beacons, only their smartphone screens spring to life. "The idea is to make them invisible," he said.
The MPact suite also includes client software development kits (SDKs) for Apple iOS and Android. With the SDKs in hand, developers can add MPact support to their mobile loyalty and retailing apps, which in turn, may help grow and popularize the MPact ecosystem.
Finally, Motorola's software offers Bluetooth Smart beacon management along with customer relationship management (CRM) and business backend software integration via application programming interfaces (APIs), allowing shop owners to add location services to their customer tracking and marketing efforts. Floor plan views provide retailers and other establishments with insights into consumer traffic flows, revealing hot spots and money-making opportunities as customers fetch items and otherwise explore their surroundings.
Rolling out the red carpet for third-party app developers, Motorola has already partnered with Aisle 411, a retail search and navigation app. Other early MPact partners include Digby, makers of the Localpoint location marketing platform, Swirl and Phunware.
"MPact helps retailers interact with shoppers in-store, adding valuable engagement through technology," said Rishi in a statement. "The solution can help shoppers request in-store assistance and receive customized offers to their mobile devices at the right time, potentially increasing total sales and providing an optimized shopping experience."
Currently, there are 10 to 15 pilots up and running, said Rishi. The company plans to start shipping the complete suite in July. Some components, like compatible Motorola Wi-Fi access points, are available now.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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