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proximity marketing (hyperlocal marketing)

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Proximity marketing, sometimes referred to as hyperlocal marketing, is the wireless delivery of promotional material to mobile users in a specific location. The location can be precise enough to target a shopper standing in front of a particular product with coupon offers, flash sales and suggestions for related products, among many other possibilities.

The technology relies on beacons, small hardware devices that send out signals that can be detected by enabled mobile devices within a specific range of the device. Beacon technology is more precise than alternatives such as cellular triangulation or GPS.

Users typically have to opt-in to receive proximity marketing communications. Most beacons require an associated mobile app and send messages through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), so users must also have Bluetooth enabled on their devices.

When the device picks up a signal from a beacon, it automatically connects to the sender’s internet location, referencing the beacon's ID. In response, the marketer’s message is sent to the target device. 

Apple has installed iBeacons throughout its retail locations in the United States. The technology tracks users through the stores and might, for example, notify them when products they ordered are available for pickup. Similarly, as users pass an iPhone display, they might receive upgrade offers. Beacon technology can also provide services other than marketing, such as enabling contactless payment and guiding users through large physical locations.  

This was last updated in June 2017

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