Stores, sports venues and other users of Apple's iBeacons will have to walk a fine line between helping users and angering them with new in-app messaging from Adobe Systems' Marketing Cloud.
A beacon is small device that uses a Bluetooth Low Energy signal to send data to users and keep track of them. The way we shop in physical stores is going through some fundamental changes thanks to the growing popularity of mobile payments and the installation of beacons.
Together they have the potential to kill traditional checkouts, while beacons can also be used for navigation and customised offers. The challenge for especially large chains is how to use the information they can gather without alienating customers concerned about their privacy.
Adobe is helping customers gather the information and take advantage of it using the company's Mobile Services, which is part of the Marketing Cloud platform. Adobe is arguably still best known for Flash and its image and video editing tools, but the ever-expanding Marketing Cloud platform is becoming increasingly important for the company.
The growing popularity of mobile devices has had a major effect on how Marketing Cloud has evolved. On Tuesday, Adobe expanded on the iBeacon functionality it announced earlier this year with the addition of in-app messaging.
Companies can create, publish, and then analyse messages sent to iBeacon apps. Apple's iBeacons takes advantage of Bluetooth Low Energy technology to keep track of users, who have to install an app to be targeted.
"This allows us to add more intelligence. The messages can be triggered by proximity, user behavior, location data and so on," said Suresh Vittal, vice president of Digital Marketing at Adobe.
The analysis features that the in-app messaging functionality come with will play a key role in preventing what Adobe calls messaging fatigue. If a chain sends too many messages that users don't find interesting, they will eventually stop looking at them. But by being able to analyse the response to each message, companies should be able to better understand what works and what doesn't.
The large scale roll-out of beacons isn't going to happen overnight, irrespective of who they are made by. The underlying technology is very straightforward, but retailers have to come up with a business case that makes sense, which is more complicated.
However, Adobe is working with a number of different retailers, mobile carriers and financial institutions that are testing and deploying beacons. For now, the company isn't ready to name any of them but by March next year that will have changed. The timing isn't a coincidence, because that's when Adobe has its next Summit digital marketing conference.
On Tuesday, Adobe also launched a mobile app dashboard that lets companies see how all their apps are performing as well as a social app that lets them view and manage all their social activities using a mobile device.
The in-app messaging and the other new features will be available this week, Adobe said without revealing any pricing. The social app will be available as a beta on iOS and support Facebook and Twitter first.
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