One Push Notification Too Many Will Make Consumers Delete Your iBeacon App

Message overload happens quickly

A new marketing menace is emerging with the explosion in iBeacon technology: message overload. Almost every retailer and brand is starting to test the new location-aware sensors known as beacons, tracking consumers’ shopping patterns as they walk the aisles and using that information to develop better marketing.

Illustration: Chris Danger

Consumers need to have apps on their mobile devices that connect with beacons and then need to opt in to marketing programs to receive notifications.

With this new technology comes an almost unprecedented ability to reach customers on their mobile phones, and a whole industry is focused on how best to find, engage and track them. This is still very much the rollout phase of iBeacons and other in-store tracking devices, as major retailers like Macy’s and Walgreens begin setting them up to test their usefulness.

InMarket, a company that works with stores and brands to implement iBeacons, said that the ability to message consumers can lead to higher engagement with the apps, but too much messaging quickly will turn people off.

“When brands try to talk too much with consumers, when someone walks down one aisle and the phone lights up, down the clothing aisle and the phone lights up, the cheese aisle and the phone lights up, we don’t think that’s good,” said Todd Dipaola, co-founder of inMarket. “We tried small test groups and found that, surprise, surprise, when the phone buzzes too much, consumers ultimately don’t come back and delete the app. They’re done with it.”

It turns out message overload arrives quite quickly, according to inMarket, which released a study that found that any more than one beacon push per location was too much.

Users who got two or more messages started deleting the apps that provided them or stopped checking those apps, inMarket reported. Customers checked their beacon apps three times less frequently after feeling overwhelmed with in-store marketing, Dipaola said.

Message frequency is an important detail because it is clear beacons will become a valuable part of shopping in the future.

A report from Adobe said that more than 50 percent of mobile marketers are using iBeacon technology or plan to do so within the next year.

Urban Airship is another marketing technology firm advising retailers and other venues about iBeacons. “We haven’t seen oversaturation yet, but there is a cautiousness,” said Alyssa Meritt, head of strategic consulting at Urban Airship.

And stores using iBeacons don’t have to push marketing messages to get utility from the technology, Meritt said. Beacons also help record data on consumers, how they flow through their stores, how frequently they visit, and other information.

In these early iBeacon test stages, many retailers, brands and marketing agencies are using the beacons to glean valuable insights into shopping behavior.

The marketing can come days or weeks later, Meritt said.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to learn about consumers, and it can be a tremendous competitive advantage,” Meritt said.