Marsh Supermarkets Brings Beacon Messaging to Apple Watch

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Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 4.44.37 PMWhen Apple launched the iPhone eight years ago, many envisioned a world where relevant content and offers would fortuitously appear on our devices as walked down the street. That future has never really materialized in the years since — as it turns out, people do not want an unsolicited coupon to that Starbucks around the corner in the first place.

But with the introduction of the Apple Watch, that dream may have a second chance.

Marsh Supermarkets is working with Los Angeles-based startup InMarket to install a system in its stores that will use Bluetooth beacons to “wake up” applications on the Apple Watch and deliver relevant content to shoppers’ wrists. Shoppers with the Marsh app or one of twenty other applications participating in InMarkets network installed on their Apple Watch or smartphone can decide to receive push notifications upon entering the store.

Messaging on the Apple Watch, which is rumored to start selling March, will remain relatively limited. In usability testing, the company found that consumers thought more than one message during a trip to the store was overbearing. Todd Dipaola, chief executive at InMarket, says that Marsh will begin by delivering coupons and content to users through its own application and allow third-party applications such as Epicurious to deliver content such as a shopping list to users when they arrive.

“Beacons can help present the right information at the right time,” says Dipaola. ” The timing of the message matters immensely, almost far more than demographics. The return on the investment is stratospheric in terms of growth.”

The grocery chain has also integrated its customer relationship management (CRM) system with the software allowing the company to match purchases made with a credit card or cash to the mobile devices of users using its app. The integration will allow the company to measure the effectiveness of coupons, ads and even the layout of a store in generating sales.

Introducing digital systems into stores could deeply affect the shopper marketing industry, which typically dealt with managing end-aisle displays or placing announcements over the store loudspeakers. The ability to measure activity both at the register and in the aisle, and connect that to a digital user, could create opportunities for marketers to more effectively measure the effectiveness of campaigns, says Dipola.

“We’re seeing a movement in media, even in stores, toward what works,” says Dipola. The traditional agencies are being held accountable and the shopper marketing folks are seeing this digital layer that exists as well.

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.