Bob! Get in the Sled!

What is the most heavily discussed topic in the proximity industry?

November 2, 2015

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During my attendance at several conferences about beacons, proximity and location based marketing the last couple of months, the conversations and discussions with peers have started to heat up. Especially in recent is the Street Fight awards, where Unacast won the best mobile marketing campaign for our work with Coke and Capa Cinema. In my view, these heated discussions are needed to ensure we all build our industry together in the right direction.

In my experience the most heavily discussed topic during coffee and lunch breaks at every event, without exception, is data ownership. And when data ownership is brought up, people tend to get their spikes out, instinctively. The reason for this is not clear, but it´s probably linked to the fact that they know, or at least have heard, that data is gold and needs to be protected by all means.

To app or not to app

Another common topic is how to get started with beacons when the retailer doesn't have an app. The rise of beacons has encouraged marketing teams all over the world to rebuild and re-launch their existing apps to take advantage of the possibilities beacons open up. Others, without a current app are hard at work developing a new app and a strategy surrounding it. With beacons, there's finally a good reason to invest in an app strategy.

However, there is still a large number of retailers and brands that decide not to develop their own app, but would still like to take advantage of the beacon technology. There can be many reasons for choosing not to develop - the investment required to build the app, the marketing required to get people to use the app or the fact that they want to reach a large audience immediately without growing their app base organically. For some companies, I agree that such a decision is the right one.

What we see these retailers and brands with no app do, is that they turn around to a 3rd party app with an existing and large user base. The retailer deploys beacons in their store and allows the 3rd party app to listen to the beacons, send push notifications and collect data.

All in all, this is great news for all of us working in the proximity industry, more deployments, use cases and adoption is what we need.

But, this is also where a big challenge arises. The two topics I introduced in the beginning, data ownership and use of 3rd party apps, intersect.

The following example is something we've seen being played out several times among our Unacast PROX partners:

The app owner claims ownership of the data as the users are using their app. At the same time, the retailer or brand claims ownership over the data as the beacons are installed at their location and the users are their customers since they entered their store. Then, the discussion goes back and forth a couple of times, but what then sometimes happens always surprises me. The retailer or brand, too eager to start using beacons, accepts the 3rd party app´s demand and gives them the ownership to the data.

“WHAT? Why did you do that? Why do you give away the most valuable asset? Finally, you can leverage and utilize data about your customer’s offline behavior, but you choose to give it away?”

These are exactly the words that run through my head every time I hear this happen. I can´t be more clear about this – the use of beacons are not only about push notifications and in-store promotion. The most important aspect and where the true value lies is how this data can strengthen your customer knowledge, online marketing and omni-channel strategy.

As always, by cooperation and sharing, we move forward

So, how can this be solved? Luckily, it's manageable. It´s all about redefining what data ownership means and how it's governed in the relevant agreements between the involved parties. Instead of talking about data ownership, owned and guarded by (usually the strongest) party, cross-licensing of the data, where both parties have rights and access is the solution. Several of our partners in the PROX network have seen great success with this setup and we advise them closely on how to make this feasible.

What we see, is that when cross-licensing is introduced, the 3rd party app becomes more popular with more retailers and brands wanting to connect to it for beacon purposes. And this is why I believe 3rd party apps should also embrace cross-licensing. All apps want more users, that is their currency.

And by allowing cross-licensing they will, 100% guaranteed, attract more retailers and brands, increasing the 3rd party app´s monthly users and consequently their value.

We all agree that proximity is at an early, but promising, stage. However, to really accelerate market growth and adoption, all the involved parties need to play together to make that happen. It is worth taking this heated discussion upfront now to ensure we all build this industry together, and in the right direction.

And, it goes without saying, all usage of data should always have the consent of the end user and deliver real value back. But you already know that of course.

It takes two to tango. It takes two or four to pilot a Bobsled. Etc.