I was reading an excellent article about the slow uptake of iBeacons when I became almost lucid, and started to see digital as the CFO sees it.

The power of digital technology can blind marketers to the simple question of ‘will the customer use it?’

Too often, marketing technology is interruptive, based on providing value for the business but wish-washy engagement for the customer.

So, let’s look at how interruption can be the death knell of customer experience. 

iBeacons can easily annoy

Smartphone users must turn their bluetooth on to interact with iBeacons (and most other beacons).

Do you have your bluetooth on currently? Maybe, if you have smart speakers at home that you use regularly, or are always connecting in the car. But I’d wager you turn bluetooth on when you want to connect, by swiping up on the iPhone and hitting the appropriate icon.

And the reason you turn it off (if you’re anything like me) is not for fear of using battery or data, but because of some undefined fear of interruption or interference from an outside party.

Interruption is precisely what has scuppered many beacon trials, with a study by inMarket (beacon provider) showing app usage drops by more than 300% when push notifications exceed one per visit.

Here’s an example of a beacon trial from Virgin Atlantic:

  • Beacons used to alert customers to go to gate X or to have their electronic boarding passes ready for security checks.
  • To send tailored offers like commission-free currency exchange deals.
  • To promote in-flight entertainment specials before customers board the plane.

Do customers want this level of interruption at an airport? Will marketers be able to resist bombarding customers with multiple vouchers, content marketing and more? Well, it seems if they don’t learn, consumers will simply opt out.

There’s also a broader point. Even if beacons are used responsibly, and loyalty sees a big uptake, what will it mean for customers with multiple retailer apps walking down Oxford Street on a weekend? It’s either all on or all off, and that seems like a bit of a flaw in the interruptive bluetooth model.

in-store notifications via beacons

Display advertising went wrong years ago

When not done right, which the IAB admits is most of the time, display is the ultimate in interruptive marketing.

Display can often take up more real estate than publisher content itself (especially if syndicated content is included in the definition).

Formats such as home-page takeover overlays that launch without even clicking or rolling over an MPU show just how much publishers have prioritised ad revenue over user experience.

The result is of course the rise of ad blockers and publishers’ realisation that the future of display is in reduced-scale, powerful ads that determine real-time user intent using shared advertiser data.

Email marketing can be overcooked

We could probably all name a brand that sends us way too much email (for me, it’s John Lewis).

Just because I haven’t unsubscribed (or clicked) after months of emails doesn’t mean that my opinion of the brand is unaffected. I may intend to engage again, or never in the rest of my days (and it may be these emails that mean I steer clear of their stores).

There are conflicting views here. Parry Malm has written on this blog about the inbox as a branding tool, it’s just a form of advertising and more emails generally equal more money.

However, other research suggests frequency is the main reason for unsubscribing and that greater frequency can reduce campaign click rate.

The message is simply that businesses need to test. They cannot assume that email will always produce a sustainable uptick in traffic and sales.

reasons for unsubscribing

And have we lost the art of outdoor media creative?

We are all stupid enough to miss the golden days of billboard advertising. But has creativity suffered as billboards seek to convey ever greater amounts of information?

Certainly, I would argue that ‘follow us on Twitter’, QR codes (briefly), AR capability (even more briefly), NFC (briefest), all these have invaded out-of-home advertising and diluted creative.

Billboards exist precisely because they are quick to digest, not so that everybody in the vicinity can traipse over to them and hover their phone in the air.

If every poster and product is digitally enabled with a weak content-led reward, there’s a ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect. We just stop caring. We don’t need the interruption.

What’s my point?

I mentioned the view of the CFO in my intro. Digital marketers have a responsibility to balance hype with tangible business results.

Even martech TV adverts now play on the idea of their own industry obfuscated by hype.

Rather than jumping on every new technology and seeing engagement as the holy grail of buzz words, marketers need to look for intent, not simply chase after their audience.

Customer experience should be viewed in the round, with testing and user feedback helping to find the optimum level of interruption in the customer lifecycle.