A Guide to Proximity Marketing (and how to set it up with your existing WiFi)

Marketing 11 minute read 1st July 2021

Google alone handles over 119,000GB of internet traffic each second (that number keeps getting bigger, too). That’s a lot of digital noise.

Reaching your customers at the right time with the right message requires effective targeting.

The marketers holy grail is to have a combination of personal data and location data to work with. We call that proximity marketing.

But implement proximity marketing with the right mindset and you can transform your customer acquisition and retention strategy.

There are complex and expensive methods, and there’s also a way to harness your existing WiFi connection (with a bit of help from Beambox).

Proximity Marketing Wifi - cart02

What is proximity marketing?

Proximity marketing simply refers to the ability to communicate with customers at the right time, based on their proximity to your location.

It’s typically used to send personalised mobile messages to people who are near enough to potentially make a last-minute decision to give your products or services a go. Time it right and get the messaging bang-on, and it could make all the difference to converting a customer or upselling a product.

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Proximity marketing isn’t new; it’s been around at least since Apple introduced their iBeacon protocol in 2013. But the availability and relatively low cost of technology required to make the most of it has left proximity marketing heading for a $52.46 billion valuation as an industry in its own right.

Why use proximity marketing?

There are lots of reasons you could use proximity marketing. Too many to fill a single blog post, in fact.

However, there are some common reasons this form of marketing is used by businesses throughout the hospitality industry. They include: the ability to tailor marketing messages and promotions to the ideal group(s) of customers;

a far easier time achieving higher conversion rates; an increased likelihood of ethically obtaining customer data; the ability to gain a deeper understanding of customer needs and wants; and

more chance of customers reacting positively to a call-to-action. Proximity marketing isn’t for everyone (we’ll get to that later), but the number of businesses that can benefit from it is growing by the day. It’s certainly something worth experimenting with.

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The different types of proximity marketing

Like any form of marketing, proximity marketing comes in many different forms, and each one relates directly to the technology used to target potential customers.

These are the most common technologies used for proximity marketing:

  • QR codes: these small, square barcode-like symbols are now a popular sight in public locations

  • WiFi: the most common way to connect to the internet wirelessly (beyond cellular, of course)

  • NFC: built into most modern smartphones, near field communication is a way to securely transfer data wirelessly between devices

  • Geofencing: this uses GPS location data to create a virtual geographic boundary which can be used by software to approximately locate something

  • Beacons: found hidden in shops and hospitality venues, these transmit data via Bluetooth

Today, we’ll focus on two of the above for proximity marketing - beacons and WiFi.

Proximity marketing with beacons 🚨

This is one of the most common forms of proximity marketing and involves setting up a Bluetooth enabled device that’s in range of a beacon which can pass information across in the form of images, text, or video.

For this to work, the customer needs a Bluetooth device (typically their smartphone) and be present in the location where the proximity marketing technique is being used. In that same location, there needs to be a beacon which can send out your marketing messages.

The customer will need to download an app that’s recognised by the beacon (this might be a branded app for your business, or one provided by the supplier of the beacon).

Once these factors are in place, the beacon will constantly scan for devices that meet the criteria required to send personalised messages, and then do so. It’s perfect if you want to build a highly engaged base of existing customers who trust you enough to download your app. Their repeat visits can then be met with appropriate marketing messages to make their stay with you as useful as possible for both parties.

What role does WiFi play in proximity marketing?

As great as beacons are, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s not a particularly cheap form of proximity marketing. Therefore, if you need to maximise your budget and dip your toes into proximity marketing without breaking the bank, a better option might be WiFi.

There’s one very good reason for this: everyone loves WiFi. If you offer free, unrestricted (within reason), fast WiFi that’s easy to connect to, people will use it.

What’s more, they’re likely to hand you some of their details in the process. For instance, if you use a WiFi marketing system like Beambox, you’ll be able to grab each user’s email address when they first sign on. But you can go further than that.

For instance, when a customer attaches themselves to your WiFi network for the tenth time, imagine being able to send a message immediately thanking them for their repeat visits with a unique, personalised offer code? It’s a brilliant way to build trust among your customers and increase their advocacy and desire to recommend you to their friends.

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This is proximity marketing at its best and utilises one of the most in-demand aspects of modern life - WiFi. So, if you’re simply offering wireless internet via a shared password, it might be time to rethink your strategy!

What are the pros and cons of proximity marketing?

It’s thought that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide them with personalised recommendations and offers. But that doesn’t mean proximity marketing is right for every business.

So, let’s look at some of the key pros and cons of proximity marketing.

✅ Proximity marketing is great if:

  • grabbing local business is core to your growth and profitability; you’re having trouble increasing engagement and return visits from existing customers;

  • you have a branded app which has struggled to gain traction;

  • you’re falling behind your local competitors and need to find a new competitive edge;

  • you’re after immediate conversions, rather than playing the long game;

  • or you want to provide a personalised experience.

❌ Proximity marketing isn’t so great if:

  • local business isn’t particularly important for you;

  • you’re already experiencing conversion issues (it’s not a free ticket to easier conversions - something is likely amiss already if people aren’t buying quickly from you);

  • you don’t have the time, patience, or knowledge to abide by the GDPR guidelines;

  • you have privacy concerns about personal data;

  • you don’t have the time to invest in another form of marketing.

The last point above is very important.

In order for proximity marketing to work, you need to invest time in it. It’ll require multiple marketing strategies and personalised offers to be generated, and if that feels like a step too far at the moment, it might be better to wait until your business is more mature and stable to fully dive into proximity marketing.

We hope we’ve given you plenty of food for thought when it comes to proximity marketing and its suitability for your operation. As noted from the outset, this is a marketing technique that benefits specific businesses, but it’s certainly worth experimenting with - particularly if you have a compatible WiFi system.

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