Retailers must handle BLE-based marketing campaigns carefully

CNET’s Roger Cheng covers an iBeacon-based product announcement from Urban Airship in this piece from Mobile World Congress that asks when retailers will jump on Apple’s Bluetooth Low Energy bandwagon. A five-year-old startup out of Portland, Ore., Urban Airship introduced a service to help retailers push automated targeted marketing messages to consumers based on apps they’ve downloaded. The company hopes to send messages based on users’ in-store location histories — perhaps dangling a promotional offer for Louis Vuitton to a shopper who has previously spent more than a few minutes in the accessories department — as well as their previous responses to pushed messages.
BLE clearly has the potential to emerge as a powerful mobile marketing tool for retailers, and Apple has already demonstrated that it has the cachet and savvy to snare some pretty impressive partners for iBeacon. But the iPhone manufacturer and its partners in iBeacon must be very careful not to smother shoppers in push messages: Retailers should always provide plenty of in-store signage educating users about iBeacon (and all BLE-based campaigns), they should never bombard users with come-ons, they must always make the opting-out process transparent and easy, and their messages should always provide some sort of value. Many consumers will embrace BLE-based campaigns that are well thought-out and executed, but ill-advised campaigns will prove costly.