Coke's movie theater trial shows beacon potential

Coca-Cola is starting to get creative about beacons

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Retail beacons have huge potential, but it can only be met when chains move beyond seeing beacons solely as tiny ad broadcasters. Coca-Cola is starting to get creative about beacons, with a trial in Norway movie theaters to not merely communicate with moviegoers but to remember them for re-targeting later.

Coke offered a free soda to get that initial click — from 24% of moviegoers — and then used the mobile app to find those people later to offer a free movie ticket if they returned. That re-targeting effort delivered a stunning 60% click-through and an almost-as-impressive 20% redemption.

The trial was done with VG, which is Norway's largest newspaper, along with Unacast. A mobile advertising vendor "collected data about these users so that, a week later, when any of them opened the VG news app on their phones, they would receive a Coca-Cola ad offering them a free ticket that could be redeemed at the movie theater," according to a story about the effort in Mobile Marketer.

Trials like these are crucial if beacons are going to evolve. It's all about layering. It's not about using the beacon or the mobile phone or POS or a mobile app. It's about layering — integrating — as much together as possible. Hence, it's using the interaction with the beacon on top of the mobile app, which leverages geolocation and the proximity of a Wi-Fi connection (and that beacon) and accessing existing CRM profiles of that shopper. And then watching for profile online and matching it with activity in-store.

What Coke has done is use the beacon not to engage the customer directly, but to encourage an interaction with a specific app. The app then continues the conversation later. The next challenge is having that conversation move deeper online, with an individualized experience. Then it must come full circle, as it should influence the next in-store interaction.

When this works, it goes beyond being seamless. Ideally, the interactions should be almost invisible, undetectable. The customer should see the online site as more useful, clueless that his/her online experience is different from anyone else's experience. In-store interactions should seem comfortable and store associates simply attentive and knowledgeable. "I just got really lucky, asking a store associate who happened to already know about the specific product I cared about," should be the reaction.

One movie theater trial in Norway is far from proving a marketing concept, but if this effort is emulated throughout retail, Coke's beacon strategy may just prove to be the real thing.

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