Beacons Reaching Millennial Moms — But Are They Motivating Them to Buy?

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A new report from beacon proximity platform inMarket indicates that millennial moms in the U.S are getting the beacon message — literally — with more than 38 percent (or 3.4 million out of 9 million) actively using beacon-enabled apps every month.

On one hand, this is a promising statistic for beacon proponents, as it confirms that via beacon technology, brick-and-mortar businesses can potentially reach over one-third of millennial moms. But the research only validates beacon-enabled apps to the extent that they are being downloaded and used; it doesn’t reflect on the role of beacons in the big picture of path to purchase, or provide any indication that beacons are concretely driving in-store sales.

Validation for beacon-enabled apps is what inMarket was seeking when it teamed up with comScore to develop the research. The Venice, Calif.-based company is partnered with various shopping app publishers including Condé Nast, Gannett, and NSA Media. The platform wanted to focus the attention of marketers interested in beacons on the importance of the apps to which beacons are linked, rather than on just the hardware.

“We want to reinforce the fact that beacons don’t do much without people that have apps that can listen to them,” says Dave Heinzinger senior director of communications at inMarket. “Beacons are just a means to an end, and that end is a location-aware app that reaches [the consumer] at the right time.”

The ways in which inMarket may use beacons as a means to an end is important here. Here’s a hypothetical example of how an inMarket campaign may work: a smartphone user downloads Epicurious, one of the shopping apps with which inMarket is partnered. The user then saves a recipe for jambalaya and then closes out of the app. Later, when walking through a Marsh supermarket (also a partner of inMarket’s), the Epicurious app will “wake up,” with a reminder for the consumer about the recipe they saved. An ad for a product by Zatarain’s, also a partner of inMarket, will pop up. It’s all intended to be a perfect marketing storm in which location, product, and consumer interest coincide.

Still, how perfect a storm can it be if we don’t know that the beacons not only worked to deliver a message, but worked to drive a purchase? Those are metrics that aren’t available in this research, Heinzinger says, though the company does tout beacon-affirming case studies on its site.

(Heinziger wrote later to point out that the inMarket platform, more broadly, “generates, on average, a 14% increase in basket size, an 8% increase in incremental store visits, a 19x increase in product engagements at the shelf and a 6.4x increase in app retention thanks to in-store beacon and proximity engagements.”)

What’s arguably more impressive than the fact that 38 percent of millennial moms are using beacon-enabled apps is the fact that so many shopping apps are beacon-enabled. The CPG and grocery category alone is brimming with such apps. In addition to those on inMarket’s platform, you’ve got Ibotta, who recently partnered with beacon provider Roximity, and megastores like Target now using Shopkick beacons. The jury may still be out on beacons, but the apps are in.

Steve Statler, principal consultant at Statler Consulting, a firm providing bluetooth beacon training and consulting, and formerly a senior director at Qualcomm says that whichever way you look at it, there’s no argument; adoption of beacons is on a very positive trajectory. And research like this, despite its lack of connecting beacons to purchases, will probably drive more brands to leverage beacons.

“Advertising and promotion dollars are the lifeblood of the kind of applications that InMarket are powering,” Statler says. “Big brands won’t get out of bed unless you can address a significant portion of their target market. All this early adopter interest in cool use cases is all very well, but a busy category manager can’t spend their time on promotions that will only be seen by a few people. They are answerable for sales, awareness and preference metrics, so you have to be able to move the needle in those areas. These numbers are significant because of the size and segment they open up to people who hold the purse strings.”

Those people who hold the purse strings will surely want tangible results with substantial ROI. But for now, in this incipient phase of beacons, the mere knowledge that one’s beacon campaign is getting through to the customer, that the message is being seen even if it’s doomed to be swiped away, is enough to keep the movement going forward.

Nicole Spector is a contributor at Street Fight.