Beacons Were A Hot Proximity Platform In 2015; Next Year, They’ll Be A Hot Retargeting Platform

Unacast and Opera Mediaworks are among a growing number of players expanding beacons’ reach beyond the store shelf and into the real world.

As more businesses explore location-based marketing through geofencing outside of places and using proximity-triggered notifications indoors, the role of beacons as the leading technology in the space is also being expanded.

The primary goal in almost all marketing that uses geo-data is to bridge the gap between online and offline consumer behavior and engagement. Since beacons started being employed by retailers over two years ago, the number of business use cases are no longer the sole province of brick-and-mortar retail, but are increasingly being used by entertainment venues, healthcare facilities, real estate companies, conferences, and airports.

As a result, the idea of beacons as a platform for sending discounts to branded apps is also starting to fade when it comes to the main purpose for installing the Bluetooth-powered devices. The next phase of beacons’ role in the marketing spectrum is as a key touchpoint for retargeting shoppers who have opted in to receive those messages from a store’s branded app.

That’s been the basis of proximity marketing platform Unacast’s business model since its inception over a year ago. The idea of “proximity-influenced” retargeting is likely to receive a closer look from major advertisers as part of a deal between the Norwegian/New York tech company San Mateo, CA-based mobile ad company Opera Mediaworks.

As a mobile ad marketplace, Opera brings large publishers and brand advertisers together in general. By working with Unacast, which aggregates offline shopping behavioral analytics based in part on consumers’ interactions with beacons and its Proxbook network, Opera can offer its clients a view into consumers’ “real-world identity.”

“The real value of beacon data is in its accuracy and granularity. Until now, that has simply meant targeting a shopper in the moment, as they walk down the aisle about a nearby product on sale,” explains Andrew Dubatowka, director of Product Strategy for Opera Mediaworks.

“With this partnership,” Dubatowka continued, “marketers can extend the life of that beacon data beyond the confines of the store and, with a detailed understanding of a shopper’s interests, apply it in other contexts, such as audience targeting and even ROAS (return on ad spend) measurement.”

The actual revenue generated by beacons at this relatively early stage can be hard to assess. Still, by the end of this year, it’s estimated that “85 percent of locations of the top 100 retailers in the United States will have deployed beacon hardware and software,” Unacast says, citing a Business Insider Intelligence report. On top of that, ABI Research has forecast that by 2020, 400 million beacons will be deployed globally.

Retargeting has largely been concentrated on e-commerce and social media activity. By adding it to the online-to-offline mix with beacons, estimates for those Bluetooth tech tools’ growth could make those figures above seem overly conservative.

“Proximity data is of huge value to the world’s biggest advertisers and publishers, and, now that we’ve successfully aggregated it from independent beacon providers around the world, its full potential can be realized,” says Thomas Walle, Unacast’s CEO and co-founder. “With this deal in place, advertisers can use the data from our collective network to grow their businesses. If brands already use beacons, they can now retarget customers and develop custom audiences for campaign targeting. We also provide one powerful marketplace for all players to monetize that beacon data.”

With that kind of optimism, and considering that other players are also looking at ways of incorporating beacons into retargeting programs, the outlook in the headline above about “next year’s prospects” may seem too cautious. It’s not unreasonable to assume that positioning beacons as a retargeting instrument to drive offline sales could become meaningful at some point this year.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.