Facebook Wants to Personalize Your In-Store Experience

facebook-beaconAfter a pilot in New York earlier this year, Facebook is now rolling out Place Tips for Business which allows businesses to push content to nearby Facebook users via beacons provided free by Facebook.

Place Tips are shown to people who are in store and who have given Facebook permission to access their location on their phone. They’re also shown to people who check in to the business on Facebook. Because Place Tips are personalized and designed to be useful, we only show them when there is enough content from the business and a person’s friends to offer an enjoyable experience.

A Facebook user may be notified of friends’ visits and photos from a given local business (tagged), the business’ latest photos, posts or other content (hopefully filtered for negative sentiment). Place Tips are turned on by default, but can be turned off by disabling Bluetooth or opting out of the feature.

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The service currently only works with Apple devices, though an Android version is on its way. It’s also US only for now.

Keeper or creeper?

The catch for retailers using their own first-party beacons is it requires a customer to download your app for them to work. Place Tips’ third-party beacons allow a business to target the 70% of iPhone owners that use the Facebook app, enabling a much greater reach than a retailer’s own beacon program.

Additional marketing options for retailers, such as sending specific offers to nearby Facebookers, is not available at this time. The program does support contextual marketing (you’re nearby our store right now) and social proof (here’s what people you know post about us), and can surface relevant posts that a store visitor likely never saw in the News Feed – even from years past.

What would make Place Tips killer?

In its current state, Place Tips are just meh for marketers. Facebook determines which content is shown to whom, and for privacy reasons, Facebook’s beacons are one-way and only push content.

Place Tips could be a killer product for retailers if it evolved features like the ability to:

  • Run campaigns for content and offers, not just surface existing posts within Facebook
  • Target only when nearby and not when in store, so Facebook pushes don’t compete with a retailer’s own beacons
  • Target Facebook users that don’t follow the business on Facebook, but follow a competitor
  • Target users that fall within a specific demographic or interests profile
  • Collect data on response to offers, like click to claim this offer, so the advertiser could have some form of measurement, record store traffic, not just Page traffic, etc.
  • Split test notifications – testing Image Post vs. Coupons, for example, or Offer A vs Offer B

Considering 96% of consumers search for mobile coupons, and 38% of consumers are interested in receiving mobile coupons when entering a store, leveraging Facebook’s app to push coupons to store visitors makes sense. This *could* be a feature that’s coming to Place Tips — a physical world equivalent to the home page lightbox offer:

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This would remove some friction for the user (searching on mobile) and prevent sharing commissions with coupon affiliates that didn’t drive the sale.

The future of retail?

Should Facebook evolve this to a robust omnichannel advertising product, it would likely provide analytics and engagement metrics. A retailer could possibly integrate this data with its own analytics and marketing tools via the Facebook API to enhance the single customer view and drive more personalized targeting.

For example, retailers that use Facebook Connect or social login on their websites and apps could potentially identify and target segments that have previously transacted with the retailer online or offline through Facebook Place Tips notifications (targeting them differently than general users), and feed back engagement with Place Tips back to a universal, contextual customer profile.

The above is an example of what’s possible with the “store of the future,” where a unified ecommerce system, rather than just provide a digital store, serves as a hub for pan-channel experiences (integrating all consumer touchpoints including a business’ digital and physical presence, and third party touchpoints like Facebook or Pinterest’s platforms).

Place Tips is another example of how the Big 3 social networks (Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest) are aggressively innovating beyond their core services to bring utility to businesses and become a part of digital retail. Social commerce is becoming more than just slapping sharing buttons on product pages and racking up followers for your social profiles.

For now, Place Tips offers very basic targeting, but claims “steady uptick in Page traffic from in-store visitors” for businesses participating in early trials. If you’re interested in trying out Facebook beacons, request one here.

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