woman shopping with her phone
A marketer messaging a customer is a little like a pick-up line. PHOTO: Ivan

At the most basic level, proximity marketing begins in one of two ways. Either you, (as a marketer) contact the customer or they contact you. Generally, it’s been you messaging them.

Of course, more of the right data could make push messages more effective. Data aggregation and a dose of A.I. goes into sending “just the right message at just the right time.”

But let’s be honest.

A marketer messaging a customer is a little like a pick-up line.

When crafted by an agency creative, it can be witty and effective. But more often than not, it’s unwelcome and a little creepy.

People recognize push marketing for what it is — advertising. Worse, many resent the continuous tracking required to make it all work. Push messaging often just pushes people away.

Make It Relevant

The fundamental problem with proximity marketing today is that the message content is a guess, primarily based on a person’s location.

Tracking a customer’s visit frequency and dwell time is valuable, even more so when enhanced by other data points from a customer’s history.

But a push message derived from this data alone is still only a guess. It misses if it’s off target. It misses if it’s ill-timed, and it always conveys that you are snooping.

The negative consequences of these ill-fitting efforts often outweigh any potential benefits.

'Customer-Directed Engagement'

There is another approach that offers greater message precision, feels to the customer like service rather than advertising, creates more frequent engagement opportunities, and is less expensive to boot. It’s called customer-directed engagement.

The premise of customer-directed engagement is to make it easy for customers to start the conversation and tell you what they want. It focuses on the moments of intent in a customer's visit when they want to know, do or buy something.

It positions the marketer to serve a customer’s expressed need, rather than spending effort guessing that need. And it opens the door to experiential marketing that many are trying to achieve.

Use Digital Touchpoints

Customer-directed engagement works when businesses place digital touchpoints in their physical locations. Each touchpoint is a gateway to information about a product or service.

Touchpoints may be wireless (Physical Web beacons), visual (QR codes) or touch-activated (NFC tags), but what is important is that they’re all browsable – meaning that customers can securely preview their content or purpose, and choose to proceed with only those that meet a need.

“Touchpoint browsing” means bringing internet-like browsing to a physical place, where the user controls the pace and chooses the subject, while the premises owner controls the content.

It’s a discovery service, much like physical shopping. It engages natural human curiosity, leading to new experiences. It allows visitors to browse previews of digital content, conveniently placed throughout a physical space, where they select what is of value to enhance their experience.

Benefits the Customer

Retail customers can discover valuable product videos and in-store promotions, or even live chat with a product expert. Museum visitors can discover richer exhibit information, presentation schedules, or engage with interactive displays.

For marketers, touchpoint browsing means having the luxury of listening and knowing not only the location of an inquiry but also its subject.

Because customers are selecting the touchpoints, marketers quickly learn what people value. Further, when used with a smart platform, content can be remotely managed, curated for the audience, or personalized.

Rather than spending marketing budgets guessing customer needs, spend it on meeting customer needs with contextual experiences that drive sales and loyalty objectives, while feeling to customers like first-class customer service.