Is Location Everything?

The encouraging (yet sometimes overwhelming) results of searching “shopper marketing” in Google news is that most articles speak to the exciting future of at shelf, in-store marketing efforts.

Through an October 17th PRNewswire story, I was introduced to Swirl, “retail’s first end-to-end in-store mobile marketing platform.” I have to say, if this is where the in-store promotional experience is headed, I am looking forward to it as both a professional and as a consumer.

What makes Swirl so interesting and different is its use of micro-location technology. Through small Bluetooth devices (called SecureCast™ Beacons), retailers can customize location ranges to pinpoint where a shopper is in the store (from an entire aisle to a specific rack) and then communicate with them accordingly via their smartphone. (That is, if the shopper accepts the invitation to download the retailers Swirl-enhanced app upon entering the store.)

Already tested in retailers such as Timberland and Kenneth Cole, the potential of Swirl seems vast. Shoppers could enjoy rewards and incentives just for entering or returning to the store, receive recommendations for products related to the category/area they’re currently browsing, or receive helpful information toward making purchase decisions on the spot. In turn, retailers can use the Swirl Marketing Console to monitor the effectiveness of using the technology as part of their in-store marketing efforts.

I think the draw of this technology is the suggested element of personalization. Yes, while it’s slightly unsettling to think of businesses honing in on your location down to a matter of feet, ultimately if their “customized” offers are genuinely helpful and insightful I think that pro outweighs any science fiction-based cons. (And again, participation in retailer’s and Swirl’s app service are completely optional.) Additionally, the convenience provided by receiving deals in real-time versus having to check for coupons in old emails in your spam folder, or pouring over the offers section of an app, seems worthwhile.

Time will tell, but it seems inevitable that retailers will see increased opportunities for targeted shopper marketing in the future through mobile tools like Swirl. I’m looking forward to the challenges this will present Theory House and our clients, and the benefits customers like myself will see, as a preferred brick and mortar retail shopper.

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