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Tech Bytes: 3 insights on Facebook’s expansion of Place Tips


The nationwide expansion of the Facebook Place Tips in-store mobile promotion service, complete with free proprietary Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, was interesting news. Here are three implications of Facebook’s latest effort to serve as a commercial platform:

Facebook becomes your branded app

Place Tips curates information such as posts from a retailer’s Facebook page and recommendations from friends and delivers it to in-store customers on a targeted, opt-in basis. The service can also deliver product information and other content, although at least for now there is no transactional capability.

Basically, Place Tips lets retailers turn an in-store customer’s Facebook app into their own branded retail app. It’s no secret that consumers are suffering from “app fatigue,” and are only willing to download a certain number of apps and will then only use even fewer. Unless a retailer is one of a consumer’s favorite businesses, the odds of the consumer opening or even downloading their app are slim.

However, Facebook is a near-ubiquitous presence on consumer mobile devices, with many keeping it continuously open. The company is now letting retailers deliver key parts of their branded app experience to a much broader selection of customers, in the process becoming much more indispensable as a customer engagement tool.

A beacon of things to come

Since initial pilot rollout in January 2015, Facebook has recommended proprietary Facebook beacons as the best tool for delivering Place Tips to customers. Facebook is now providing free beacons to select retailers.

Clearly, the social media giant is betting on beacon technology as the future platform of choice for in-store customer engagement. Beacons do not provide the only means of sensing customers or delivering a targeted store experience, but so far they are proving highly effective. Facebook’s endorsement of beacons for Place Tips is another sign of beacons’ growing importance.

In addition, Facebook’s development of proprietary beacons is no accident. Any solution will provide greater functionality when it specifically customized for a certain framework. Facebook beacons are free for now (at least on a select basis), but that may be a temporary effort to ensure a strong existing base.

Other technology providers, and even retailers themselves, may rely more on proprietary beacons to deliver specific customer experiences. This may also lead to issues such as retailers facing a glut of individual beacon implementations to support different aspects of their customer engagement strategy.

Social selling

Let’s be honest here. For all retailers’ talk of supporting every step of the customer journey and providing shoppers with tools to make informed purchase decisions, at the end of the day retail is about making sales. It is easy to imagine Facebook eventually adding functionality for ordering and purchasing to Place Tips at some point in the future.

This would greatly increase the value of Place Tips to retailers, and also provide a much stronger ROI proposition should Facebook decide to turn Place Tips into a paid service.

Place Tips could wind up becoming an important mechanism in advancing “social selling,” which despite a number of highly publicized efforts has not yet become a major source of retail revenue. Facebook could even divide Place Tips into a “freemium” promotional version supported by third-party ads (which currently are not allowed) and a paid version with transactional functionality.

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