When retailers try to untie the Gordian knot that has been slow-to-stationary beacon adoption, discussions usually center around infrastructure, policy and other behind-the-scenes development issues. This has kept some retailers chasing a wild goose of beacon potential that may never materialize — unless some new startups are willing to look at beacons from a different perspective.
Notify Nearby, a location-based marketing startup, hopes that it can be just that kind of innovator with beacons thanks to a simple conceptual change: Why not have beacons act like apps on consumers’ phones? Notify Nearby CEO Nevin Jethmalani told VentureBeat that while his company may look like just another beacon startup on the retailer-facing side — customers are sent push notifications for special offers based on location markers — what it presents to consumers has game-changing potential.
“Content on our app is not just ads or coupons but information that a shopper wants to receive,” Jethmalani said. “It includes anything from sales and promotions to product launches and partnerships or collaborations. Our competitors focus on coupons or pushing products and having retailers spend money for ad space. We focus on giving every brand on our app the same experience.”
Creating that kind of living, breathing app-mosphere requires active participation by retailers, though, and Jethmalani explained that Notify Nearby is equipped to help with just that. Instead of requiring customers to download each individual brand’s app, Notify Nearby compiles all participating retailers under one digital umbrella; from there, retailers can create messages and promotions that match their sense of brand style, and everything is sent out from a single app to cut down on notification fatigue.
Having just launched Wednesday (Jan. 13), Notify Nearby has a small core of clients, primarily from the fashion industry — American Eagle Outfitters, DKNY, Lucky Brand and Uniqlo, to name a few. While Jethmalani is far from adverse to borrowing some tried-and-true beacon tactics (like spamming customers with upsell coupons and discounts to drive bigger sales), he’s quick to note that what consumers really connect with and what beacons have yet to provide them with is a truly personalized experience. Especially in the fashion world, where brand loyalty can run deeper than most other verticals, fostering these long-term relationships has been a missed opportunity for beacons so far.
With tailored content directly from brands sent to users who have opted in to receiving not just financial promotions but product and lifestyle updates, Jethmalani believes Notify Nearby has a bright future, as long as retailers leverage it for the right reasons.
“Dedicated brand customers love being treated like VIP members,” Jethmalani told VentureBeat. “Notify Nearby provides shoppers with real-time notifications about opportunities available at a time when they find them most relevant [and] also brings a unique and modern-day retail experience to the brick-and-mortar store.”
A slight repositioning of how brands conceptualize and use beacons could make for a refreshing consumer experience, and Jethmalani isn’t alone in thinking that. In an interview with Mobile Payments Today, Jim Meckley, CMO at Mobiquity Networks, explained that after a long period of feeling each other out, retailers and beacons might finally be ready to put the rocky past behind for a smooth-sailing future.
“You read all these articles about whether beacons were more hype than substance, and I think the truth of it is that there’s a ton of substance in terms of what beacons can unlock from an advertising perspective,” Meckley said. “The trick is that it was much more complex to implement that than everyone initially gave it credit for … I don’t know if anyone out there has proven the value proposition, so no one is a 100 percent sure.”
With more takes on beacons like Notify Nearby’s approach, confidence in beacons should rise right alongside sales.