The Physical-Digital fusion, and the new age of marketing

I’m often asked: What is it that you do at Blupath? It is a question that I always struggle to answer without starting a long-winded lecture about new marketing paradigms and the fusion of the digital and physical world. Well, in this post, I’ll stop bothering with 30 seconds answers, and go full out, to try to fully introduce you to the new wonderful world of the digital and physical fusion, and what this means for your business.

In a nutshell, what we do is connect the Physical and the Digital worlds together. We provide technology, our own platform to control that technology, and our support to businesses to allow them to turn any object into a digital portal with which they can engage their customers. And through this, we are able to power hundreds of consumer engagement solutions that a business can use to drive a consistent marketing strategy to its audience.

The marketing challenge

Consider the following:

  • Random, mass-market push advertising on the TV, Press, and yes, even online, is losing its effectiveness. Fewer people watch TV. Fewer people read the paper. People skip past the Youtube advert. People install ad-blockers. Which brings us to point number 2.
  • Consumers are inundated with marketing messages. They are increasingly becoming more skilled in filtering out anything that doesn’t interest them. And therefore:
  • Successful marketing communication needs to be relevant, visible, and targeted to the individual. The consumer doesn’t want annoying ads pushed their way, they want to ‘pull’ information when and if they need it. They want to be given a voice and to be able to answer back.

If you’re a marketing professional you’ve likely heard all this before. So how is this all relevant the Physical to Digital fusion?

What does it all mean: The Physical Web

Back in 2015, Google introduced what it calls ‘The Physical Web’. If you’ve not already done so, have a look at Scott Jenson’s short introduction on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yaLPRgtlR0.

The idea behind the Physical Web is the fusion between the Physical and Digital Worlds, bringing about a world where every physical object can be a portal to rich digital content kept online. In his introduction, Scott uses the example of a movie poster in the street; as a passer-by approaches the poster, they can immediately see on their phone information about the theatre play-times, or the chance to buy a ticket.

Whether you want to call it ‘The Physical Web’ or you prefer any other terms the fusion of the digital and physical worlds is becoming a reality. And this is relevant because it leads us into a world where we no longer just ‘push’ content, in the hope that it will be picked up by a consumer paying attention on the TV or radio; but we instead can turn every object, and every point in the world aroundus, into a communication portal that gives the consumer the option to ‘pull’ information from it when, and if they want to.

Let’s use Google’s example. The movie poster on the street has stopped being just a mechanism to advertise and push information but is now a 2-way portal. As a consumer I can choose to interact with the poster and ‘pull’ much richer and more relevant information about the movie advertised. Or, I can choose not to. The beauty of pull advertising is that the consumer takes control, and elects to receive content when it is most relevant to them. And the beauty of tying a communication portal with the physical world, is that there is little that is as visible and obvious as a physical object, working both as a reminder and as a trigger to the consumer to want to find out more.

Beyond the Physical Web

The ‘Physical Web’ is of course a term coined by Google to more specifically refer to the use of Google’s own brand of Bluetooth beacons called “Eddystone” for such Physical to Digital connections. In our example, the movie poster has attached to it a beacon that broadcasts a bluetooth signal to individuals some 50 to 100 meters around it. A passerby with both Bluetooth enabled and the latest version of Google Chrome, will be able to view a link in their phone notification screen that when selected takes them to additional information from the poster online.

The problem is of course, that Google’s Eddystone is by far not the only technology for connecting the Physical and Digital Worlds together, and in perhaps the majority of cases is not the even an appropriate one.

  • What do you do if people don’t have Bluetooth enabled?
  • What do you do if people don’t use the latest version of Chrome?
  • What do you do with products for which embedding a Bluetooth beacon is either too difficult or prohibitively expensive?
  • Why use Eddystone, and not ibeacon, or your Wifi, or RFID, or any other connectivity technology? And what is the difference between each?

The fact is, there are many ways to link the digital and physical worlds together. And our jobs as marketers is not just to pick the right tool for the job, but also to make sure that we maintain a consistent, and relevant marketing strategy. Here’s a few other questions to consider:

  • How do you control what you communicate out of all Physical Web communication portals, whichever technology you elect to use?
  • How do you make sure that you communicate a consistent message amongst different Physical to Digital tools? How do you make sure that what is communicated to each consumer is personalised to their own circumstances?
  • And how do you tie this all up with your existing marketing strategies, while not becoming completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of marketing channels to manage?

The Blupath Physical to Digital solution

Cards

Here’s a practical example of a solution we’re powering at Blupath. Using a technology we call ‘SmartTouch’ we can make an object open up a communication portal between business and consumer, whenever the consumer touches their phone on the product. Using this, we’ve developed a solution we call an ‘Interactive Smart Card’. Having the same size as any normal plastic card, the card holder can use it to build a bridge to the card-issuer, by simply touching it to their phone.

Absolutely anything can be communicated to the consumer through an Interactive Smart Card, including surveys, feedback forms, chat rooms, and other methods with which the consumer can respond back. We take this a step further though, by making the content delivered from the card dynamic to the circumstances of the consumer, and the requirements of the business.

If a consumer interacts with the card in one geographic location, they can receive different information than if interacting with it in another geographic location. Similarly, communication received from the card can vary depending on the time of day, the date of the week, the type of phone hardware used, or even the individual profile of the cardholder.

And this is only the beginning. The same SmartTouch technology can be built in keyrings, wristbands, hotel room keys, fridge magnets, indoor and outdoor info points, or attached to product packaging or retail shelves, turning any physical object or location into a dynamic communication portal.

Taking it a step further: an omni-channel solution for all technologies

But as we discussed above, no one technology is perfect. Our SmartTouch technology is ideal for building inexpensive portals that the consumer must touch with their phone to open. Bluetooth beacons, both Google’s Eddystone variety or Apple’s ibeacons, again powered and managed from the same platform, allow communication portals to be build that can be reached by customers at a longer range. And the wifi network of an entire building can be used to build a larger area portal.

With Blupath, we can maintain a consistent communication strategy through all technologies that can be used to build Physical to Digital portals, while building relations between them.

Imagine you a high street retailer, and you have issued out Interactive Smart Cards to your customers to allow them to stay in touch with you. The next time the customer returns to your shop, not only can you use the same Blupath platform to communicate with them when they log into your wifi network – the content the receive via Wifi can be made to vary depending on their previous interactions with your Smart Cards; while you gather a unified set of analytics and statistics from all different utilized channels.

At Blupath we give you technology, but we also give you the support needed to implement this technology, because we recognize that building a Physical to Digital strategy can be a complex and difficult matter. Get in touch with us to discuss your needs at info@blupath.co.uk or review the individual solutions powered by out Blupath platform in our website at www.blupath.co.uk