How Apple’s New Bluetooth Technology Could Revolutionize Marketing

By Matt Weltz | Dec 12, 2013
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Apple's iBeacon MLB

As search engine marketers, we work in a constantly changing environment. From algorithm updates to policy shifts, saying things change overnight might actually be a bit of an understatement. The constant change has made us prepared for anything, and surprised by nothing. We have learned to read the signs to see what lurks over the horizon. With these thoughts in mind, I started to think about some of the emerging technologies from Apple and Google, mulling over how they may affect businesses and people in the near future.

Recently, I found myself reading an article from The Motley Fool about Apple’s new iBeacon, which can be summarized as a small program running in the background of your iPhone that sends small amounts of regular Bluetooth data relaying your location. Getting over the fact it’s a bit creepy from a privacy perspective, you can start to see the potential it could have for ordinary people, as well as marketers.

The article gives the example of using your phone much like an E-ZPass, paying for your items automatically as you walk out of a retail store with the products in hand. In addition, it could theoretically provide a user with more information on anything as they walked by. One day you may get updates on the wait for a Kings Dominion ride when you pass it, receive a list of specials as you walk past a restaurant, receive movie times as you walk into a theater, and so much more. Imagine walking past a Cinnabon at the mall when a coupon pops up on your phone for buy one get one free, and hey, you’re only human. That type of direct advertising has huge implications for markers and businesses that could change the way we shop and sell.

In addition to the aforementioned potential abilities, the Bluetooth location technology could affect us in other ways. Recently, Google has been making an effort to show how online ad views (specifically Google ads, of course) directly convert to real life sales. If they adopted a similar Bluetooth tracking technology for their phones and devices, you can imagine how it could be paired. Google could know you saw an ad for a product on your phone or tablet (possibly computer if you are logged in to Google Plus, and then went to the mall and walked out having automatically paid for the advertised item from your phone). As a marketer, I would love to see this type of granular tracking to help further prove ROI. That said, as a consumer I still don’t necessarily feel comfortable with that level of information being available.

While this high tech future may seem distant, most of the technologies are more than hypothetical and they currently exist. Thinking deeper on how these innovations could be applied, I thought of an interesting possibility. What if this location and direct advertising technology was integrated into a product like Google Glasses? What if one day, if and when Google Glasses hit the mainstream market, we began seeing virtual billboards or ad scrolls based on our location, preferences, and habits? It could work using technology similar to that of the iBeacon that integrates with the glasses’ display. Going back to the Cinnabon example, let’s say as you walked past the store the smell causes you to glance back before walking away. Cinnabon could show a virtual ad to your glasses showing the buy one get one free deal. Obviously this is only one possibility of many, but it illustrates the potential of these emerging technologies.

While these technologies are still being developed and are not yet fully being used in the aforementioned ways, it seems likely they may be in the not so distant future. It is more than just speculation to say that emerging technologies could have a real and lasting effect on how we as marketers target potential customers. It may make it even more necessary for businesses to rely on competent marketers and marketing agencies to ensure they are reaching all of their potential customers in new and creative ways. Whether it will be because of iBeacon technology, Google Glasses, or something else, the safest bet to make is that we won’t be marketing exactly the same way this time in 2014.

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