Beacons And The ‘Bar Of The Future’ Come To CES

Beacons from InMarket are being rolled out to 23,000 bars, restaurants, casinos, nightclubs and other venues connected to AMI Entertainment sports and music programming network.

Beacons are being positioned as a virtual wingman via bar and restaurant patrons’ mobile apps, as proximity marketing platform inMarket is teaming with in-venue digital network AMI to bring the sensors into 23,000 locations.

The two companies have dubbed the beacon program inBar and are debuting it on the first day of CES. InBar is being positioned it as “the first ambient intelligence platform for brands to engage consumers via mobile inside entertainment venues.”

Instead of merely using beacons to send a push notification offering app users a discount when walking into a place, inBar will feature a wide range location-specific mixed media and content.

Opening Up IoT’s Potential

As beacons have become more mainstream among retailers, marketers are looking for ways of employing the Internet of Things and sensors to trigger a direct one-to-one connection with consumers.

The possibilities are extensive. For example, patrons can set a favorite song to play on an AMI-powered interactive jukebox that is triggered the second they walk into a bar.

“We looked at the opportunities out there and found that there’s already an IoT device in many bars — the digital jukebox in the corner,” said Todd Dipaola, inMarket’s CEO and cofounder.

“Today, people can activate a jukebox by walking up to it,” Dipaola continued. “But what if it can be more over the air? What if people could have that experience and improve upon it? What if your phone knows you’re by a jukebox? We can tell the jukebox to play your entry music as you walk in — like when someone comes into the ring a World Wide Wrestling. So we worked with AMI and started with those what ifs and said, ‘Hey, we can actually build and do these experiences.’”

Those inBar experiences promise to essentially turn phones into an “AI bar assistant.” Some other “geo-unlockable” second-screen features inBar include

  • A “safe ride” deal for being in the bar for 3-plus hours
  • Extra swipes in your dating app
  • A late night fast food offer
  • Drink specials for checking your fantasy football scores during the game
  • Exclusive playlists or AR/camera filters just for being there

inMarket AMI body 1Solving For Scale And Friction

While major retailers with hundreds of branded stores and thousands of app users have the instant scale that can make a beacon marketing program worthwhile for advertisers.

For smaller, independent businesses like bars and restaurants, the prospect of attracting ad dollars associated with one-to-one marketing programs from beacons isn’t so clear.

InMarket’s answer to that is that it can bring the scale. Its beacons power over 700 shopping apps that reach an audience of 45 million monthly users, according to comScore. That scale is complemented by AMI’s jukeboxes, sports TV programming, and other indoor media at 23,000 locations.

Aside from the issue of scale, the friction associated with beacons has been a persistent hurdle for brands and consumers over the past three years. In particular, getting consumers to download a dedicated app to access beacon content has been one hurdle.

Here, too, inMarket has a response: inBar is available over the Physical Web, as well as Apple iOS and Google Android apps.

“With inBar, we’ve made contextual advertising on the physical web just as easy as the desktop web,” said Dipaola. “Yet at the same time, we have years of experience connecting with consumers in this capacity. We’re excited to extend our reach and our expertise with some of our amazing partners like AMI Entertainment in 2017 and beyond.”

By offering bar patrons features like 'a safe ride home,' inMarket and AMI are giving them a clear utility to engage with — not just a sales message.
By offering bar patrons features like ‘a safe ride home,’ inMarket and AMI are giving them a clear utility to engage with — not just a sales message.

Looking Long-Term

As an issue, beacon battery life is one of the lesser problems for merchants. But it’s still something they’d rather not have to think about. AMI’s jukeboxes eliminate that matter too. The beacons are being placed in the jukeboxes, which serves as a constant, sustainable source of energy.

“We’re actually putting USB powered beacons in, so the battery won’t ever run out,” Dipaola said.

The deal with AMI follows a positive year for inMarket, which included handling Rite Aid’s 4,600 store beacon rollout in the early part of 2016 and ending it by touching $14.5 billion in sales over Black Friday.

More recently, inMarket has just hired a new CMO, Cameron Peebles, formerly with Airpush mobile ad network.

As Dipaola looks to inMarket’s goals for 2017, he notes that the success of beacon programs will depend on more than just erasing points of friction. These IoT initiatives will also have to rely on more than just novelty. Ultimately, the programs that win will have to offer clear reasons for consumers to want to opt-in and engage with brands.

“There are a lot of cool experiences and creative AR are amazing,” Dipaola said. “The challenge sometimes people have had is actually at the point of sale. I think consumers love it, but they have no breadcrumbs to discover that opportunity at the right moment. So that’s what we really are, is creating those mobile moments at the right time. For a brand, this helps to create an experience that makes a consumer want to talk them while in a bar. At the end of the day, we represent the IoT hook company that provides the connection to reaches people where they want, when they want.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.