Troy Norcross currently works as Senior Relationship Manager

at Nokia, as well as running a blog which focuses on responsible marketing practices.

He has just written a paper on using Bluetooth for proximity marketing (here’s a pdf teaser of the paper). We’ve been asking Troy about Bluetooth marketing best practice, and the issues surrounding it…

Can you summarise how Bluetooth marketing works?

Have you ever shared a photo with a friend over Bluetooth? You’ve got some digital content, such as a picture you have taken or one of those cool viral videos that are floating around. You want to share it with your mate. You ask your friend to turn on Bluetooth and make their phone ‘visible’. From your own phone you pick the content you want to send, select ‘Send via Bluetooth’ and the phone then shows a list of Bluetooth devices that your phone can see.

Your friend then gets a notice and can decide whether to accept or receive content from your phone. When using Bluetooth for marketing it works exactly the same way except the we are not sending content from another phone, but from a Bluetooth enabled computer.

In order to receive the marketing content, the user’s phone must already have Bluetooth turned on and it must be set to ‘visible’. The content that is sent is up to the marketer. It can be photos, videos, coupons, music clips, anything that you can send from one phone to another.

How many handsets are Bluetooth enabled?

Today the majority of mobile handsets have Bluetooth capability, but not all of them have Bluetooth enabled, and not all of the ones who have it enabled have Bluetooth set to visible. In a survey we did for the UK we found that 70% of consumers had a Bluetooth enabled device but only about 20% of those with Bluetooth enabled actually had it set to on and visible.

What are the various formats available for mobile advertisers?

One of the great things about using Bluetooth for marketing is that you are not limited to content types in the same way as you are with other mobile direct marketing channels. SMS limits you to 160 characters of text. MMS supports multi-media, but only as part of an MMS message format and network operators often limit the size of an MMS.

With Bluetooth you can send a full range of multi-media content types in sizes from a few Kbytes up to 1 Mbyte. There is no limit for the Bluetooth standard, but practically speaking 1 Mbyte is a good rule of thumb…

Do you expect any resistance from mobile users to this type of advertising?

Bluetooth marketing is an incredibly powerful medium because it can reach consumers with rich content with no cost for network delivery. In order to ensure that users accept the content there are some basic guidelines to follow:

  • Ensure that you make it very clear with posters or other media that Bluetooth marketing is in operation.
  • Tell the consumer what to expect, e.g:  “You might get an alert on your phone, ‘Accept content from MyCinema?’
  • Tell the consumer what’s in it for them, e.g: ‘We’ll send you a coupon for a free soft drink with a trailer for the next Buzz Sawyer movie!’
  • Ensure that you only run Bluetooth marketing campaigns within a closed and defined space. Inside the lobby of the auto dealership is fine, but outside on the pavement next to the pub can be a problem, as the potential exists for consumers to push-back on Bluetooth if they perceive the messages as spam, sometimes called ‘Bluespam’.

Do consumers understand Bluetooth, and incoming Bluetooth messages?

Many consumers use Bluetooth today for sharing content with each other. Another demographic understand Bluetooth as a means to connect their car kits and their ear pieces. In general, consumers get it when it comes to Bluetooth.

Whether they understand Bluetooth messages is something that our research shows needs more work. If a consumer gets an alert asking to receive Bluetooth content, and they aren’t expecting it, or it appears to be from someone or something they don’t know, then they are likely to err on the side of caution and reject the request

That ‘s why it’s so important to include other media in the space to make sure that consumers know that Bluetooth marketing is in operation,  and what they can expect to receive.

How will advertisers overcome the first step and get users to opt-in?

Opt-in is a tricky topic, made all the more complicated in October 2007 when the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) decided that opt-In wasn’t required for Bluetooth marketing. Technically marketers don’t have to get an opt-in from a consumer. 

The best opt-in available today is a soft opt-in. A soft opt-in occurs when you are inside a place of business already, a closed and defined space, and the consumer knows that Bluetooth marketing is in operation.

In the next version of the Bluetooth standard there is support for a parallel technology, NFC, which the same stuff that let’s our Oyster cards work. When the majority of phones support NFC we will truly have the ability to have the consumer to opt-in by asking them to ‘touch your phone HERE to opt-in for cool Bluetooth content‘.

It’s the classic marketing opportunity. Offer the consumer something of high value, make it easy, and they will opt-in. We are probably 2 years away from having these types of systems in the market.

What form would the first interaction take?

The first interaction is a poster telling the consumer there is something that they can receive via Bluetooth. That should be the first interaction. After that the first on-device interaction is an alert from the your mobile phone or other Bluetooth device asking your permission to ‘accept content from xxxx’.

From a best practice point of view, you should have the consumers permission before you do anything to make their phone beep, vibrate, change display or otherwise interrupt them. Thus we should make every effort to get the consumer’s permission before we ever send them the request to deliver the content.

What is the typical range of responses from users that have been exposed to this kind of marketing thus far?

You can get fantastic content from the majority of Vue cinemas. When it’s done right the response can be phenomenal. At the other end of the spectrum, HSBC cancelled their Bluetooth trial after only a short while. HSBC was running Bluetooth out on the pavement and either got no response or had irate customers coming in demanding to know why HSBC was Bluespamming them.

What does it offer that regular mobile marketing – such as SMS – doesn’t?

Bluetooth offers 2 main things:

  • Richer content types and more flexibility in size of content.
  • Proximity. You can only run Bluetooth within a given range or area and thus you automatically have a greater understanding of what a consumer might want based on their location, something either not available via SMS or available at a high cost.

Can you give us a few examples of campaigns that have adopted Bluetooth marketing?

The best examples of Bluetooth marketing can be found at tradeshows, where people standing in the booth can have the company brochure and the account rep’s business card sent to their phone via Bluetooth. Other good examples are Bluetooth coupons on the aisle with the soft drinks broadcasting a special offer available in-store and from that aisle.

 What are the best practices in this area if you want to make the campaign a success? What are the things to steer clear of, to avoid failures?

There are several key things to keep in mind to make your Bluetooth marketing the most successful possible:

  1. Make sure that the consumer knows that you’re using Bluetooth marketing and what’s in it for them.
  2. Always run Bluetooth campaigns inside your store or shop, not out in public areas.
  3. Make sure your Bluetooth system supports the ability for consumers to opt-out so they don’t get hit every time they visit you.
  4. Make sure that your Bluetooth system is smart enough to detect different phone/device types so that you can always send content that is optimised for the target device.

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