Bluetooth is only one of the many technologies that can enable proximity-based marketing messages. Other technologies include
- Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
- Wireless Fidelity (WiFi)
- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
- Near Field Communications (NFC)
- Radio Frequency Simulation (RF SIM)
- Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD)
Bluetooth can be a very effective form of marketing, but the challenge to using any kind of proximity marketing technology, including Bluetooth, is consumer adoption. Three things have to happen for Bluetooth marketing or any other technology to be effective for marketing to the masses.
- The technology has to be widely available. Smartphones are becoming more popular, but there are still a lot of feature-phones in the hands of consumers with no Bluetooth or proximity detection capabilities. Proximity marketing has more potential as more people trade up to smartphones and tablets.
- The technology has to be used by consumers. Just because there are millions of Bluetooth enabled devices doesn't mean that consumers know how to use the technology or what to do with it. Bluetooth isn't as familiar to consumers as texting, emailing, downloading an app, browsing the Web or using a camera.
- Consumers have to want the specific feature the technology offers. Even if a technology is widely available and used, consumers can still reject the technology for specific uses if they aren't valuable or cause them discomfort. Many consumers still don't like the idea of someone detecting their location without their permission.
These challenges aren't reasons to abandon Bluetooth and other forms of proximity marketing. They just mean that the success stories are few and far between because the technologies are best for serving early adopters and niche audiences.
John Arnold is a Boulder, Colo.- based consultant, speaker and trainer specializing in marketing advice for small businesses. He is the author of three marketing books in the 'For Dummies' series including Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference and Mobile Marketing for Dummies. Follow him on Twitter: @ArnoldMarketing