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Proximity Marketing: Life After Pilots

It’s Monday’s morning and you’re meeting VP of Marketing at the customer’s office. The agenda is about proceeding to the next phase of “Proximity Marketing” project - from pilot deployment in a single venue to a large-scale deployment across 30+ venues, which are owned by the customer.

The pilot phase has been successful and all goals have been achieved:

  • BLE beacon devices with iBeacon and Eddystone have worked without issues.
  • Proximity campaigns have been executed correctly - according to the targeting rules for proximity zones, time periods, content delivery schemes etc.
  • Campaign analytics have shown positive results for content delivery and CTR.
  • The customer's marketing team liked the web portal for proximity campaigns and analytics.

The whole solution for this pilot deployment was relatively simple and cheap - created with 3rd-party BLE beacons and your custom CMS portal. Everything was pretty straightforward in this case, though your company (as a solution vendor) didn't make any profits from the pilot phase. Everything was aimed to satisfy the customer for continuing to the next bigger phase.

Sounds familiar? Let's continue …

Now the customer is really excited and wants to launch on a bigger scale. The following requirements have been mentioned:

  • All 30 venues should be covered with BLE beacon devices - you've estimated more than 1500 devices as a total.
  • Centralized management of BLE beacons from the cloud - to reduce IT support expenses: ouch!
  • Foot traffic analytics inside all venues - where and how shoppers are walking: ouch!
  • Foot traffic analytics without the customer's mobile app - all shoppers with smartphones: double ouch!
  • Cross-venue proximity campaigns - for example: single campaign for the perfume departments in all venues: ouch!
  • Location analytics forshopping carts in all venues: ouch, no smartphone here!
  • They also want to connect an existing BI (Business Intelligence) tool, such as Tableau, to your analytics database for deeper and broader data exploration: ouch! is that even possible?
  • The last requirement - location accuracy should be 2-3 meters, not more. Ouch again, everybody is aware of the challenges about indoor positioning with BLE beacons. The average accuracy can jump up to 10 meters!

Oh, please don't forget the new SLA chapter in the customer's contract - it defines strict requirements for L2 and L3 support of the installed solution. System uptime requirements are defined as well! Both VP of Marketing and her colleague from IT department consider such requirements logical, taking into account complexity and scale of this solution.

Your recent excitement, based on the successful pilot phase, has turned into an opposite feeling. It looks like your solution is good for the pilot deployments only - you lack 90% of features from the customer requirements! You understand that you're not ready for any real-life deployments at all!

Rough estimations for implementing the above features from scratch have resulted in the following conclusions:

  • Indoor positioning scenarios require a top-notch RTLS engine.
  • Foot traffic analytics is about combining RTLS with advanced Big Data analytics features.
  • The requirement about locating smartphones without the customer's mobile app needs Wi-Fi RTLS - another large implementation from scratch!
  • Cross-venue campaigns will result in a complete rework of the existing CMS portal!
  • Location analytics for shopping carts is not supported at all - custom hardware, such as BLE location tags, will be required for this scenario.
  • Centralized management of BLE beacons from the cloud - another large story with potentially custom hardware, embedded software, wireless protocols and cloud-side features.
  • SLA requirements will result in the advanced features for NOC and troubleshooting - another large implementation from scratch!
  • The last requirement about 2-3 meters for location accuracy - might become an impossible mission even for the advanced RTLS engine based on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

You've calculated 15+ man-years for implementing all these features with multiple technical risks. In the end you've decided to negotiate the project's scope for dramatically reducing the problematic features.

Unfortunately the customer was not in the right mood for such compromises. They don't want another pilot deployment with "Hello World" proximity marketing. So they've decided to select another solution vendor. End of this story.

The main goal of this story was to demonstrate a common underestimation of the real-life solutions for proximity marketing and location analytics. Pretty often you see just the tip of the iceberg.

Several BLE beacons with a simple CMS portal are definitely not enough. Pilot projects are relatively easy to start, less easy to complete successfully and MUCH harder to convert into large-scale deployments. Especially when your customer (logically) wants a system, which is more advanced than "Hello World" proximity marketing with the mobile app for push notifications.

Our CVO Platform supports all the above features and 100% of the mentioned customer requirements. We understand the typical challenges and the common needs for delivering successful projects - both small and large deployments.

I would be happy to provide you some more information and practical advices! Please don't hesitate to contact me directly: chiphysler@creativemsolutions.com

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